The Museum of Broken Relationships Opens in Los Angeles

The Museum of Broken Relationships, a conceptual art museum exploring failed relationships and their ruins, opens June 4th. in Los Angeles.

Each of the nearly 100 exhibits is an artifact or relic of a broken relationship accompanied by a "story" written in first person by the person who donated the item. In addition to 6 exhibition rooms, there is a gift shop and a private "confessional" space where visitors can write and leave anonymous notes.

One of the exhibits is a bottle of wine. "The wine was to drink when we both left our spouses," the donor tells us. The wine bottle remains sadly unopened. Another is a family history book filled with tragic memories, retrieved from a rental house. The owners of the book remain unfound. A lovely wall display, "Set of Seven Bras", has the accompanying description "...no wonder we were hidden", probably referring to the extensive padding. Nearby is a blue chiffon top worn by a woman to a dinner at which her husband requested a divorce.

The relics are frankly mesmerizing. The captivating objects and the stories behind them are heartbreaking, funny and absurd. Collectively they manage to put all romantic suffering into proper perspective. When love ends, the world seems to end too. We cling to the objects connecting us to the departed one, the flotsam and jetsam of love gone south. But in time the objects we clung to like holy relics shrink to mundane absurdity.

My personal favorites? A wedding dress crammed inside an old pickle jar. You can feel the impulse of the woman who created this object, pushing all the chaotic emotional fallout of a failed marriage into a small absurd container. Also high on my list are the false breasts which the donor had been required to wear during sex with her husband (before she left him!).

The ripped out phone is also excellent. "I fell in love with a junkie" the story begins. The phone was a gift ripped out of a payphone in Echo Park. The story is short and stark, hitting a chord with anyone who's ever fallen in love with an oh-so-wrong person.

Perhaps the saddest item on display is the Transplant Caregiver Manual which was given to the donor by her boyfriend as he waited for a double lung transplant. One can imagine her nervously studying this stark medical manual not knowing that just two weeks after the surgery was complete, he would abruptly leave her.

The Museum of Broken Relationships has an interesting backstory. It grew from a traveling exhibition revolving around the concept of failed relationships and their ruins. Conceptualized in Croatia by an artist ex-couple, the Museum of Broken Relationships started in 2006 and became a permanent museum in Zagreb in 2010.

The Museum's West Coast outpost was founded by John B. Quinn, a prominent L.A. lawyer and co-owner of Q Sushi. He discovered the original site while on vacation with his family in Zagreb.

"The Museum is an opportunity for visitors from around the world to experience the emotions and memories embodied in objects and told through narratives contributed by others," said Quinn. He added, "I cannot imagine a more fitting city than ours, which, much like love itself, is filled with as many wild dreams as it is crushing defeats."

Director Alexis Hyde and Assistant Director Amanda Vandenberg have selected the current exhibit from the museum's ongoing call for objects, each accompanied by a brief description of a relationship gone south. This includes not only romantic relationships but relationships of all kinds, from family relationships to relationships with friends, homes, cities, workplaces, and more.

The Museum is open for donations, offering "a chance to overcome an emotional collapse through creation: by contributing to the permanent collection." "Have you ever had a broken heart?" the website asks. "If you've wished to unburden the emotional load by erasing everything that reminds you of that painful experience by throwing it all away - don't. Give it to us. Donate your object to the Museum and take part in the creation of collective emotional history."

Check out brokenships.la for instructions on how to contribute your own piece for exhibit. The pieces will be shown anonymously. Contributors are invited to write their story of any length in their own language. "Be frank, withdrawn, furious, imaginative, witty or sad," the website extols. And if the pieces are too big to send in a conventional way, the museum may make arrangements for a special pickup.

The Museum of Broken Relationships is located at 6751 Hollywood Boulevard, one block east of Highland in the old Frederick's of Hollywood building. It is open 7 days a week.


This blogger is the author of The Divorce Party Handbook and has a psychotherapy practice in Los Angeles. Contact Christine at chris@talktherapynow.com