Author Jordan Heller Illustration Graham Roumieu
On the mezzanine floor of an upscale shopping mall in Istanbul, a number of objects displayed atop boxy white platforms are tugging at the emotions of passersby. There’s a pair of pink fuzzy handcuffs, an old Nokia cell phone, and an unopened bottle of Pommery champagne. On the surface, they are seemingly random artifacts of contemporary life. A closer inspection reveals something powerful linking them: They are all the unwanted souvenirs of love gone bad. The champagne, for example, as we’re told by an accompanying text, was meant to be opened on a one-year anniversary. Instead, its contents have gone flat—much like the relationship it was meant to celebrate.
The Museum of Broken Relationships is a traveling exhibit of the detritus that remains when lovers part ways. For the donors—an assortment of lonely hearts from all corners of the world—these items are too painful to keep, but they’re too valuable to just toss into the garbage.
“When they give us their objects and their stories, they kind of let it go,” says Croatian artist Olinka Vistica, who founded the museum with her ex-boyfriend Drazen Grubisic, who’s also an artist. “And because they are exhibited with other peoples’ stories, they feel like, ‘Okay, I’m not alone.’ There’s also a positive feeling from knowing other people are going to get well through your story.
“I like to think our museum keeps past loves eternal,” adds Vistica. “And at the same time gives us freedom from them.”
Like a lover’s wandering eye, the Museum of Broken Relationships will travel: This spring it stops in Bloomington, Indiana, and St. Louis.