The Museum of Broken Relationships is likely the only museum you’re apt to visit that contains a pair of breast implants once housed inside an actual human being, a vial full of pubic hair and a stack of pornos. But as odd as it may initially sound, it is a museum of catharsis, heartbreak and hope.
The Museum of Broken Relationships originated in Zagreb, Croatia, founded by Olinka Vištica and Dražen Grubišić, two artists who dated for four years before breaking up in 2003. It began as a traveling exhibit, but then turned into a permanent brick-and-mortar institution in 2010. The idea is that couples who break up will donate things to the museum that serve as painful reminders of their ex-lover, instead of throwing them out or destroying them.
The Hollywood museum is the first permanent offshoot from the original in Zagreb, and the group’s second brick-and-mortar location. It takes over the old Frederick’s of Hollywood space with a clean, minimalist design that puts the focus on the collected objects. Each object is displayed with a sign that reveals where it’s from, when the relationship it references occurred, and the story behind it. All items are anonymous. According to the museum’s assistant director, Amanda Vandenberg, there are about 115 such items currently on display, many from their most recent call for submissions and a few from their Croatian counterpart.
It’s important for creative people to turn failed relationships into art. I remember talking to a good friend when I first realized I would be getting a divorce and saying, “I better get a LOT of material out of this.”
This would probably be a great thing to visit for couples who are pondering divorce or a break-up. I am forever counseling some married friends of mine about the perils of the “grass is always greener” mentality. Perhaps visual aids from other failed relationships can serve as reality jolt. Then again, it might just speed up the inevitable.
“I’ve got the perfect thing to donate to this place.”
The museum’s assistant director insists that visiting it can be a positive experience:
If you’re feeling like you can’t relate, having recycled all your love letters or burned all your Valentine’s Day gifts, then know that for some, this museum offers a unique ability to heal.
“It’s the ability to tell you story anonymously and then close that chapter of your life,” Vandenberg says. “It’s cathartic. I think that reading the stories can also be cathartic. When people hear Museum of Broken Relationships, people think it will be depressing, but it’s not. Once you go through the stories and see the varieties, you’ll see see that not all broken relationships are bad and our hope is that you leave uplifted. And a wonderful thing about the museum is that you don’t need to come from a high art background to understand the concept or have the vocabulary to speak about it. This is something that we’ve all been through, that we all know too well, that we’ve all spoken at length about.”
A little advice for the zillions of clueless young guys roaming Los Angeles right now: this would not be a solid choice for a first date.