Everyone has had that moment – days, months, even years after the end of a relationship, when you come across something inextricably linked with that person. The Museum of Broken Relationships collects those trinkets – everything from poems to a grand piano, nasal spray to necklaces. It’s a magnificent, moving show, simultaneously both intensely personal and completely universal. This slideshow gives just a glimpse into the weird and wonderful exhibition.
First held in Croatia, the museum has toured internationally, encouraging the lovelorn to donate their own items so the collection is ever-growing. It recently opened in London, split between the Tristan Bates Theatre just off Shaftesbury Avenue and number 38 Earlham Street. As you enter the main space you are greeted with a quote from Roland Barthes which ends: “There is no amorous oblation without a final theatre.”
And here is that theatre, presented in a wonderfully atmospheric space where the random exhibits are treated with equal reverence, and the paper cut-out art by Alice Bray creates a dreamy timelessness, a kind of pleasant purgatory.
When people donate an item they are able to submit an explanation and these range from long, cathartic meditations on love and loss to the single line: “It didn’t work out.”
Nothing is heavy-handed, and donors often point out the clumsy symbolism of their own choices (a heart-shaped chocolate box, now empty is one that is handled with wit).
But other objects are less immediately understood, and while some yield a few pointers as you read on – a computer software disk includes the line: “One of the many things he never got round to” – at other times we are left clueless. Also a word of warning, anyone who visits will certainly think carefully when next buying their lover a gift – various gaudy cuddly toys and even a frisbee are among the presents discarded in disgust.
All kinds of relationship are here, and all kinds of break-ups, and the end result far from being depressing is actually quietly uplifting.