Sunday, December 12, 2010

Museum of Broken Relationships

Who knows better about bad matches gone wrong than the people we tried to call Yugoslavians?

You may not be planning a trip to Croatia.  Though Dubrovnik at Christmas can be enchanting….  But you might find yourself in Vienna, only a 4 hour drive from Zagreb, where the permanent collection of the Museum of Broken Relationships is open from 9 – 9 every day.

This collection of objects was originally a travelling show, and does still make the rounds, but has found a home at last in a bleak-looking shell of a brick low-rise, that appears to have once housed apartments with terraced views.  How fitting.  (ArtCulture defines it as a former department store)


The objects displayed are accompanied by the years of the relationship they represent, and a brief story, such as the wedding photo matchstick box above:

Maribor, Slovenia

A box – Jelka, Vlado, November 15, 1975. Vlado made it after the wedding, when he was in the army. After 18 years of marriage he left me for another woman; we officially divorced after our 25th wedding anniversary. I decided to surprise him for the anniversary. I ordered a cake with the number 25 written on it and the pastry shop cut it in half. I sent him the half with the 25. Our sons celebrated our anniversary first with me and then with their father. He and his girlfriend were very shocked but they ate the cake anyway. The cake is gone and so is our marriage. I still have the box, two sons and a lot of memories…
Much of the press is drawn to this wooden prosthetic leg – donated by a wounded warrior who fell briefly in love with his nurse.  It is duct-taped together and badly worn, but as the donor comments, it was still “sturdier” than their love.

In fact, so much of the press comments on the same handful of items, that I did wonder how many pieces are in the permanent collection.  Spiegel counts 200 on 6 stories; NYTimes reported on about 70 objects in a traveling exhibit in Turkey: nice aerial view of that.  Note the broken heart array….15broken_CA0-articleLarge
There are a few other objects from the period of Yugoslavia’s collapse, such as the prosthetic and a love letter written during the evacuation of Sarajevo.

What seems to be missing is a gallery devoted to the arranged marriage that was Yugoslavia itself, and the relationship counselors it sought.  “Too Soon,” perhaps?  Maybe this is a gentler way to start the conversation, or to replace it.

yugo-1-630op  An installation dedicated to this little fellow would be a nice touch too.    Yeh, “sometime.”  Not for long though.

The Museum received 1000 visitors in the first week it opened this October.  Both Leonard Cohen and Lady Gaga have performed in Zagreb this year.  Coincidence?  I think that about wraps it up.


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