A Look Inside Los Angeles' Museum of Broken Relationships

Photo of Juliet Bennett Rylah
10 January 2019

Though Los Angeles’ Museum of Broken Relationships may seem depressing at first, it’s truly a journey of catharsis. Guests will experience a range of emotions, but they may exit uplifted and with empathy for the curious condition known as love.

The Hollywood Boulevard location is the museum’s second—the first opened in Zagreb, Croatia. Its founders, artists Olinka Vištica and Dražen Grubišić, actually lived the theme of their own museum. They met, fell in love, and enjoyed a relationship before breaking it off in 2003. In 2010, they opened the Museum of Broken Relationships in a brick-and-mortar location after operating as a traveling exhibition for a time. It is full of items donated by anonymous people, each one telling the story of a relationship that had soured. Donating these items to the museum can create a sense of closure for those that choose to do so, and perhaps a more salient option than lighting them on fire or chucking them in the nearest dumpster. At least this way, we can share in the tears and the laughter together.

The Hollywood location has about 115 fascinating donations. Some come from the Croatian outpost, while others arrived via a call for submissions. The objects are a true hodgepodge, each displayed with a card that reveals its origin. In a glass box sits a pair of breast implants; a woman wrote she had them removed after breaking up with the man who paid for her to get them. A collection of household items commemorates a relationship between two people who bonded over their love of a common typeface. Each object—a tin, a bottle, a box—uses the same lettering. A row of cologne bottles came from a woman who could not bear to throw them away after her husband died. In a white frame is a small scrap of paper that reads, “Pay attention to me.” The man who donated the note said he only found it after his partner had left him.

The Museum of Broken Relationships | © Juliet Bennett Rylah

Not every item pertains to a romantic relationship. One exhibit is a collection of letters and documents that a family left behind after being forced out of their home. The new owner had hoped to find the family one day and return the belongings. A lottery ticket tells the story of four friends, only three of them played the lottery every Christmas without telling the fourth. When the trio won the big prize, it shattered their 60-year friendship with the fourth friend.

In addition to the museum’s collection, they also host a variety of events, including lectures, workshops, Prom “do-overs,” and more. Gift shop scores include books, totes, apparel and other novelties, all playfully adhering to the theme. General admission is $18.

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