Breakups are usually shitty and sad-making, but the Museum of Broken Relationships in Croatia brings an entirely new perspective to the act of splitting up. After ending a four-year romance in 2003, artists Olinka Vištica and Dražen Grubišić came up with the idea for a museum that encourages the world's exes to donate their own heartbreaking mementos instead of just throwing them out in the trash where they usually belong.
Photo by Selene Fable
What began as a practical form of personal therapy for a pair of artists became a real-life art exhibit at the 41st Zagreb Salon in 2006. From there, the Museum of Broken Relationships turned into a traveling exhibition while continuing to add to a growing collection of touching, tragic, funny, or just plain fucked up relics of ill-fated unions—all of which come with a short description, courtesy of the donor.
In 2010, the Museum of Broken Relationships opened its doors to the public at a permanent home in the city where it all began: Zagreb. Here, you'll find a physical showcase of failed romances along with an adjoining café where cynical caffeine addicts are free to wait for sentimental friends who get sucked into the museum's well-lit and modestly-sized labyrinth of leftover love.
I recently had the chance to visit the museum while on a tour of UNESCO World Heritage sites in Croatia. This isn't one of them, but I had to visit it anyway. Looking objectively at things that carried heavy emotional weight for a pair of strangers is just weird, and I wanted to see what sort of depressing and funny stuff the museum had to offer. Just in case Croatia isn't next on your list of travel destinations, I thought I'd share a few of the museum's highlights right here. The years in the titles are the amount of time the items' owners were together.
An Unopened Candy G-string (2004-2008), Winterthur, Switzerland
This poor woman's ex used to give her gifts like sausages, bicycle parts, and this candy G-string before he cheated on her with her coworker and dumped her via email. Classy, with a capital ASSY.
Mannequin Hands (5 years), Berlin, Germany
After a tumultuous five-year relationship and a nasty fight, this person decided to leave home with no explanation. After finally returning the next morning, she (or he) discovered the entire place covered in polyurethane foam, with a favorite mannequin as the only witness. Not sure why the mannequin's hands are severed, or what it has to do with polyurethane foam, but it's kind of a badass breakup regardless.
Fake Breasts (3 years), Belgrade, Serbia
Some guy decided to give his flat-chested wife these ridiculous-looking plaster tits to wear during sex, so she dumped him.
A Shaving Kit (1987-1996), Zagreb, Croatia
Who uses these besides 90-year-olds and the guys on Whisker Wars? Not the man who donated this practically brand-new shaving set. Not much of a sacrifice if you've barely used it, but whatever. Oh, and he was 27 years old and married with three kids when he first started hooking up with the girl who gave him these. She was 17.
A Red Wig (July 2007-March 2008), New York City, New York
After they broke up, this man's ex-girlfriend decided to return a bunch of shit he left at her apartment. He recognized most of it except this red wig, which he swears he'd never seen before.
A Winter Coat, Supposedly Hand-Made (3 Years), Ljubljana, Slovenia
Apparently, this fur coat first belonged to a dude: "Ali Salem Mutlag" of Jordan. It's probably a made-up name the donor used to tell her ill-fated love story, which is essentially this: she met a flashy guy with a fancy fur coat in Italy before he left her, and his fur coat, behind. She wants us to know that just because she got the coat doesn't mean she's a "tramp." Note to prematurely defensive donor chick: the fur coat probably looked better on you anyway, and these days, there's no such thing as a tramp.
A Can of Love Incense (1994), Bloomington, Indiana
The description beside this groovy-looking container of love incense simply reads: "Doesn't work." No shit?
A Wisp of Hair (Less than two months), Skopje, Macedonia
Miley Cyrus, Emma Watson, and Felicity weren't the only ones to chop off their locks. This person did the same thing, but only after spending barely two months with a crazy-making lover: "I cut my hair and I lived without it for a long time and no one loved me... and I was happy."
A Sleep-Over Bag (17 years), Ljubljana, Slovenia
Seventeen fucking years and this is all these two have to show for it: a baggie with a toothbrush, some lube, deodorant, socks, and a T-shirt? No wonder they broke up... if they're not already back together.
Enough said. Time to take inventory of all that leftover crap from your exes and donate it to the Museum of Broken Relationships, too.
More failed romance: