Museum of Broken Relationships

Display with shoes at Museum of broken relationships

Display at Museum of Broken Relationships. Credit: Shutterstock

Relationships typically unravel during the winter months, with breakups peaking around mid-March.

So, this may be a good time for many people to take comfort in snapshots of other people’s heartache.

Concept art in Croatia

Croatia has long been recognised as a fertile ground for conceptual art and is also becoming a world authority on quirky museums. The country is home to the Froggyland Museum of Illusions, the Mushroom Museum, the Museum of Hangovers, the recently opened Museum of Fake News, and one which has toured the world: the Museum of Broken Relationships in Zagreb.

Founded by Croatian artists Olinka Vištica and Dražen Grubišić almost inadvertently after they split up in 2006, the museum began as their own healing process of exploring their emotional debris. The objects it houses are a portrayal of the aftermath of love, inviting visitors to confront their own experiences of heartache and healing.

As the collection travelled the world to be shown in major galleries, it picked up more tales of love and loss along the way. It also inspired the founding of similar museums in other cities, such as Los Angeles and Brussels.

From Tokyo and Denver to Ljubljana, the exhibits narrate the bittersweet stories behind seemingly mundane objects, such as a toaster from Colorado, or a “divorce-day dwarf” with a smashed face from Slovenia.

Broken toaster or broken relationship?

Short texts at the museum explain the objects: the Toaster from Denver, Colorado represents a relationship from 2006 to 2010:

“When I moved out, and across the country, I took the toaster. That’ll show you. How are you going to toast anything now?”

Divorce day mad dwarf

The “divorce day mad dwarf” encapsulates a 20-year relationship in Ljubljana, Slovenia:

“He arrived in a new car. Arrogant and heartless. The dwarf was closing the gate that he himself had destroyed some time ago. At that moment it flew over to the windscreen of the new car, rebounded and landed on the asphalt surface. It was a long loop, drawing an arc of time – and this short, long arc defined the end of love.”

Seeing the flotsam and jetsam in the museum both elevates a breakup and makes it seem poignantly funny, allowing visitors to identify and gain perspective on the universality of their own suffering.

More than just a repository of relics from failed relationships, the museum embodies the transformative power of art, providing a platform for emotional catharsis and introspection. By encouraging people to donate items from their past relationships, the museum fosters closure and communal healing, transforming personal anguish into shared experiences of empathy and understanding.

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Written by

Annette Christmas

Annie Christmas loves language and communication. A long-time resident of Mallorca, she enjoys an outdoor life of cycling, horse riding and mountain walking, as well as the wealth of concerts and cultural events on the island. She also plays fiddle in a traditional Mallorcan dance troupe.