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Museum of Broken Relationships Showcases Souvenirs Of Heartbreak

A Dear John letter, a naked plastic baby doll, a prosthetic leg. The pattern might not be readily apparent, but nonetheless, all of these items found their way into a unique art show that's currently touring the world.

The Museum of Broken Relationships has shown everywhere from Zagreb to Manila, from Capetown to Kilkenny, and is now to make its second-ever US stop at Indiana University's School of Fine Arts Gallery in Bloomington, Indiana.

A Motley Collection

Croatian artist Drazen Grubisic started the Museum of Broken Relationships as his own personal relationship, with fellow artist Olinka Vistica, was in the process of ending.

Unsure about how to dispose of a few sentimental items the couple had collected together, they decided, as they say, "It would be nice to have a museum to store all these objects that have emotional pressure on us."

The opportunity to create just such a collection presented itself in 2006, when the ex-couple spearheaded a collaborative art piece for the Zagreb Salon.

With only a few objects of their own to include, the artistic partners solicited donations from friends. The donations were eclectic;Â Grubisic and Vistica contributed a wind-up bunny.

"I thought we would get loads of letters and plush toys," Grubisic recalled, "and it would be really boring." Instead, among the treasures they received was a prosthetic leg donated by a lovelorn Croatian war veteran.

The number and variety of items is still growing; visitors to the show have the opportunity to drop off their own donations and stories to become part of the museum's collection.

Worldwide Enthusiasm

When the show opened, Grubisic and Vistica's project spawned a media frenzy. Reuters showed up first, and was quickly followed by the BBC, NPR, the New York Times the Guardian, and many others.

That was when the Museum began to tour the world. When it went to the former Yugoslavian countries, the museum received funding from the European Cultural Foundation, which determined that the project promoted healing at a political level, as well as a personal one.

Its current installation, at Bloomington's School of Fine Arts Gallery on the Indiana University campus, is the Museum's 17th exhibition to date, and only its 2nd American showing. The smallest city in which the show has been exhibited, Bloomington has also set a record for donations received.

Impressed by the work's emotional content, and its democratic nature-two qualities she finds lacking in contemporary art, San Francisco gallery director Selene Foster decided to take on the role of the Museum's North American "ambassador."

Gender studies scholar and artist Filiz Cicek brought the Museum of Broken Relationships to Bloomington, together with Lori Canada, an artist, writer and social worker.

Cicek finds the process of turning a symbol of pain into a piece of art essentially aesthetic. "You take something very personal, process it and put it out there," Cicek explained, "so you make yourself vulnerable but you also stand with it and shout with it."

Related Resources

Other Articles About The Museum

  • Balkan heartbreak a hit in Berlin (BBC)
  • Museum Honors Soured Relationships (NPR)
  • A Poignant Trail of Broken Hearts, All on Display (The New York Times)
  • Museum of Broken Relationships opens (The Guardian)

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