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Arts and Entertainment

Photos: The Museum Of Broken Relationships Opens In Hollywood

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The Museum of Broken Relationships is likely the only museum you're apt to visit that contains a pair of breast implants once housed inside an actual human being, a vial full of pubic hair and a stack of pornos. But as odd as it may initially sound, it is a museum of catharsis, heartbreak and hope.

The Museum of Broken Relationships originated in Zagreb, Croatia, founded by Olinka Vištica and Dražen Grubišić, two artists who dated for four years before breaking up in 2003. It began as a traveling exhibit, but then turned into a permanent brick-and-mortar institution in 2010. The idea is that couples who break up will donate things to the museum that serve as painful reminders of their ex-lover, instead of throwing them out or destroying them.

The Hollywood museum is the first permanent offshoot from the original in Zagreb, and the group's second brick-and-mortar location. It takes over the old Frederick's of Hollywood space with a clean, minimalist design that puts the focus on the collected objects. Each object is displayed with a sign that reveals where it's from, when the relationship it references occurred, and the story behind it. All items are anonymous. According to the museum's assistant director, Amanda Vandenberg, there are about 115 such items currently on display, many from their most recent call for submissions and a few from their Croatian counterpart.

"[115 items] is about what the human mind can handle before it taps out," she tells LAist. "After reading story after story, they all kind of become combined into one, so we want to make sure it's a very carefully paced exhibit."

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A casual walk around the venue will reveal that not all broken relationships are romantic. There are severed ties with family and friends, and even one's former self. Some of the items are infinitely depressing, to be certain. There's a Peter Pan doll that a man bought himself on his 25th birthday to remind himself to stay young. We spotted this one at a previous pop-up prior to the museum's opening at The Ace. The man, now 50, writes that his "dreams have rotted away, imagination lies in a dusty corner of an abandoned house down the street, and inspiration [has been] carried off by the autumn winds." I grew up, he laments. So simple, yet so brutal.

Another tragic item is the one Vandenberg chose when I asked her if she had a favorite. Titled "Brooklyn dress," it's a simple navy, floral print dress that hangs against a white wall. It was submitted by a woman who fell in love at 14 with a fellow teen. To Vandenberg, the dress and its accompanying heartbreaking tale speak to the power of young love:

I feel really often when you talk about the type of donations that [the museum] gets, and you talk about first love or young love, people are so quick to be dismissive of that. They say, 'you're young, what do you know?' Or, 'you will move on.' The story with the Brooklyn dress is that she had young love at 14. And he was rare and unique and charming, and she loved him in the best way that she as a 14-year-old could, including loving his insecurities and oddities. He picked out this dress for her because he wanted to see her in it and she never put it on for him. The one opportunity she had, she left it stuffed in her backpack the night before a sleepover. And that week, he killed himself, and that was the last time he had seen her. Years later, that story stuck with her, that dress stuck with her. It changed the course of her life, and I think it makes you reevaluate what young love can do and what it can be in your life.

The object that struck me the most was a simple blue folder with a sheet of paper on which a declaration of love for a person named Jill had been typed. The story was that this Jill supported her significant other as he pursued his acting career and once he became moderately successful, he dumped her. It's such an L.A. story, on the one hand, but it's so universally relatable to many who have selflessly given, only to be left with a broken heart and, in this case, a typed missive in a cheap folder.

Perfectly preserved. (Photo by Juliet Bennett Rylah/LAist)
Other objects are happier, and that's by design. The museum is laid out to intentionally to take you through a series of emotions. The bright main room acclimates you to the museum, with many relationship relics that are whimsical or even funny. But, Vandenberg notes that as you turn the corner, the submissions get heavier. Some of the items once belonged to people who have died, and their loved ones submitted them to receive a sense of closure they could not achieve from either throwing the them away or holding onto them. However, the final items at the end are lighter, and evoke a sense of growth. These submissions are from people who do not regret their past relationships, but have moved on and are glad for it.

For instance, in a box suitable for possible biohazards sits a pair of pristine breast implants, so clean you'd never know they'd once been inside an actual, living human being. The woman who once owned them said she had been coaxed into getting them by her self-professed "boob guy" ex. She had them removed after the relationship ended, and states that she now loves herself more than she'd love a man who'd ask her to have a surgical procedure she wasn't comfortable with simply to please him. This object draws a modern comparison to an item on loan from the Croatian museum: a pair of large, plaster breasts a man asked his wife to wear during sex.

Vandenberg notes that the implants, out of all the submissions, surprised her the most. Those wishing to donate first have to fill out an online submission form detailing their object and the story.

"It's one thing to do the submission form," she says. "It's another thing to put it in a box and send it away. I think we were surprised to read that someone would actually keep [their implants] and we were surprised to physically receive them. We actually specially ordered the box [the implants are stored in] because we wanted to make sure they were cared for and preserved in case anyone would be tempted to touch them."

Another unique submission is a set of family albums a renter in Austin, Texas found, left behind by a family that had lived there from the '40s until they were evicted in 2013. The renter has been hoping to locate them ever since.

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Do you know these people? (Photo by Juliet Bennett Rylah/LAist)
If you're feeling like you can't relate, having recycled all your love letters or burned all your Valentine's Day gifts, then know that for some, this museum offers a unique ability to heal.

"It's the ability to tell you story anonymously and then close that chapter of your life," Vandenberg says. "It's cathartic. I think that reading the stories can also be cathartic. When people hear Museum of Broken Relationships, people think it will be depressing, but it's not. Once you go through the stories and see the varieties, you'll see see that not all broken relationships are bad and our hope is that you leave uplifted. And a wonderful thing about the museum is that you don't need to come from a high art background to understand the concept or have the vocabulary to speak about it. This is something that we've all been through, that we all know too well, that we've all spoken at length about."

The current collection will be on display for at least six months, and then items may be switched out. Submissions are still open, and the museum is receiving new artifacts of love lost all the time. The museum will also offer a confession space where guests may pen anonymous notes, and a gift shop with various branded and related merchandise. The museum will soon announce their programming, which will include various events around the venue's theme. Vandenberg says that so far, they've received interest from lecturers and authors, and even people interested in doing demos on how to cleanse with sage.

The Museum of Broken Relationships officially opens Saturday, June 4, and is located at 6751 Hollywood Blvd. in Hollywood. Open Monday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Tues. & Weds., 11 a.m to 7 p.m.; Thus., 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., Fri. & Sat., 10 a.m. to 9 p.m., Sundays 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tickets $18, or $15 for students and seniors.

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