The City of Angels’ Home for Broken Hearts

Failed relationships and/or a broken heart often yield common wreckage: a vitriolic journal entry, a fading ticket stub, or an ex’s t-shirt haunting the closet. These relics are vessels, ready subjects imbued with memories, be they discordant, celebratory, or labored with indifference. Despite their common nature, however, for many, their possession is uneasy—neither appropriate for display on a bookshelf nor in a box inside a closet.

In the face of their own breakup in 2003, Croatian artists Dražen GrubišiÄ? and Olinka Vištica asked themselves the following: “What to do with all those tokens of love, material and immaterial, that you store during your relationship? Wouldn’t it be great if there was a place, a museum of a kind that could help you store it for some time?” Two years later, in 2006, the pair came to a romantic conclusion: the Museum of Broken Relationships. At first, the museum’s collection consisted of personal belongings donated by friends and friends-of-friends, and took the form of a traveling exhibition housed in a shipping container. Not long after making its way through various cities, it landed permanently in GrubišiÄ? and Vištica’s hometown of Zagreb, in 2010.

Inspired by a visit to the museum in Croatia, John B. Quinn will open a second Museum of Broken Relationships tomorrow, June 4, in Los Angeles, where relics of the same sort be on view. The nearly 100 donations on display in the inaugural show sit ready to be viewed, made into voyeuristic objects of commiseration and amusement. As Museum Director Alexis Hyde explains, the City of Dreams is a fitting location.

“Los Angeles, and Hollywood specifically, has always been a place of soaring dreams, and thus crushing defeats,” Hyde says. “Since it’s conception, our fair city has never put boundaries on possibility. As a city and community we are open to the new, different, and daring in a way that entirely [embraces] such ventures. This translates to our personal lives as well. The concept of the pursuit of happiness is alive and well in Hollywood and because of that, we know that it’s not always smooth sailing.”

To say the least, many of the donations received by both museum locations are of odd provenance; Vištica tells the story of a stranger who approached her in a bar, carrying his donation—a prosthetic leg—and informed her of his wartime love affair with a nurse before jokingly remarking that “the prosthesis lasted longer than their love, as it was made of sturdier material.” Hyde, on the other hand, tells a tale closer to what one might expect in L.A.: “If the only thing you think of when you think of Los Angeles is Baywatch, then we do have a pair of removed silicon implants [that] one woman’s body rejected.”

Should you wish to contribute your own token of lost love, the Museum of Broken Relationships is accepting anonymous donations. Otherwise, you can visit its “confessional space,” leaving a note in lieu of an object. Either way, Hyde—and the museum—offers the following consolation: “Nothing can protect you from a broken heart,” she says. “Even if it doesn’t feel like it, you can get to a place where it doesn’t hurt as much.”