This Europe: Hepburn's sons bring down curtain on Swiss exhibition

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The Independent Online

Two Oscar statuettes are the highlights of the Audrey Hepburn Pavilion – an exhibition devoted to the star of Breakfast at Tiffany's – in Tolochenaz, by Lake Geneva.

But the display in this quiet village, where the actress lived for 30 years, is about to close. Hepburn's sons, Sean Ferrer and Luca Dotti, have asked that all their exhibits be returned, claiming Tolochenaz has commercialised the Hepburn name in a way that would have distressed their mother.

The villagers claim Mr Ferrer is closing the exhibition down because it is too small-scale. The foundation that runs it donates money to children's charities from the entry fee and the sale of postcards, dried lavender from Hepburn's garden, jams and jellies, as well as from special events.

"What upsets Mr Ferrer is that itdoesn't fit with his view of how to commercialise the Hepburn name. Ours is just a little exhibit in the countryside," said François Girard, the mayor of Tolochenaz, whose population is 1,683.

But Mr Ferrer says villagers have tried to hype the connection, including by placing signs towards the pavilion in the cemetery where she is buried.

Mr Ferrer said at his home in Los Angeles: "She loved the town the way it was. She wouldn't want to change something that has been that way for hundreds of years or to Hollywoodise it in any way."

Although the exhibition appears in Swiss tourist brochures, there are few signs in Tolochenaz to the former school building that houses it, and little has changed since Hepburn walked her dogs in the narrow lanes. She was 63 when she died here of colon cancer in 1993.

The Hepburn family owns all but one of the items in the exhibition. They are due to shipped to Los Angeles later this month and put into storage.

But even without the pavilion, Tolochenaz will remain special, Mr Ferrer said. "I grew up there and I will always go back. And people will continue to come. People will come because of her."

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