The ex effect: The Museum of Broken Relationships

Aug 11, 2014, 07:34 IST | Kiran Mehta

This curiously quirky museum in Zagreb, Croatia, celebrates love stories but only those that ended. Here's a guided tour of some of its exhibits that made for heart-wrenching and hilarious tributes to break-ups

Started by film-producer, Olinka Vištica and artist Dra en Grubišic, the Museum of Broken Relationships has earned the Kenneth Hudson Award (2011) for the Most Innovative European Museum.

The Museum of Broken Relationships
The Museum of Broken Relationships is filled with exhibits donated by people from across the globe; the only criteria being that it should be from an ended relationship. Pic Courtesy/Museum of Broken Relationships, Zagreb.

And the story behind it is just as intriguing — after the end of their four-year relationship, Vištica and Grubišic, were left with the arduous task of dividing their joint possessions. That's when they came up with the idea of finding a place to house the mementoes of their lost love.

Museum of Broken Relationships
Here goes the bride: Over the years, the museum has received several wedding dresses. They speak volumes even without the accompanying note; while others make for a good read with cheeky notes asking, 'Will I get it back, if I ever decide to marry again?' Pic Courtesy/Ana Opalic, Museum of Broken Relationships.

The museum was born of personal exhibits, and those donated by family and friends. Soon, the universal theme found stories everywhere — from the creators' hometown in Zagreb, the capital of Croatia, to the far-flung corners of India. Today, anybody with a broken heart can find wall-space here.

The ex and the axe
The ex and the axe: A man returns from a short trip to find that his live-in girlfriend is a lesbian. He kicks her out. She holidays with her girlfriend. For every day she is away, he hacks a piece of her furniture. 'The more her room filled with chopped furniture, acquiring the look of my soul; the better I felt', the axe was promoted to a therapy instrument. Pic/Kiran Mehta.

Being part of the museum is as easy as filling up an online form, and mailing in an object. What's more, all donations are accepted (except those deemed offensive).

A million little pieces
A million little pieces: A man serves his wife divorce papers. He arrived, 'arrogant and heartless'. At that moment, the dwarf, perched on the gate, flew over the windscreen of his car, rebounded and landed on the asphalt. 'It was a long loop, drawing an arc of time — and this short-long arc defined the end of love'. Pic Courtesy/Ana Opalic, Museum of Broken Relationships.

Over the years, hundreds of exhibits have become part of the museum — some permanent, others as part of travelling exhibitions to different countries; and some (ironically) replaced with newer (younger!) donations, over time.

A relationship without a leg to stand on
A relationship without a leg to stand on: In a Zagreb hospital, cupid struck a patient and a hospital worker. But as the note reads, 'The prosthesis endured longer than our love. It was made of sturdier material'. Pic Courtesy/Ana Opalic, Museum of Broken Relationships.

Walking through the museum feels a tad voyeuristic, it is meant to be cathartic, and is extremely entertaining.

In black and white
In black and white: A writer married her 'favourite editor'. The best man, also an editor, made her a paper bouquet. On the eve of their fifth wedding anniversary, she finds he's cheating on her, and some of their friends are aware of it. One among those is her best friend, who penned a novel with her. Her note aptly reads, 'Guess this is what it means to be hurt by a paper-cut'. Pic/Kiran Mehta.

An anonymous note accompanying each exhibit tells all; in a few printed words, a relationship is lived and lost.

India is represented here too!

Desi Boy
Desi Boy: A South Indian boy from Andhra Pradesh falls in love with a Manipuri girl from the Northeast. 'She is cute and white; I am handsome and a bit dark'. Distance makes her heart wander. So, he donates the gifts they exchanged. Pic/Kiran Mehta.

Puppy Love
Puppy Love: A little boy from India is smitten by a little girl who lives next door. He moves to another apartment, but the crush doesn't fade. When they come of age, the girl's family sends a proposal to the boy's family. The boy's parents refuse as he is not financially stable. The girl marries another. The boy grieves the loss of his first love and is left with a few trinkets of their childhood — pieces of her red bangles. Pic Courtesy/Natasa Njegovanovic, Museum of Broken Relationships.

A twist to 50 shades of grey?
A twist to 50 shades of grey? Pre-teens fall in love and vow to marry. They lose touch. The girl grows up to be a prostitute, who is working on a book on S&M. She goes to work for a dominatrix. Her first client 'wasn't submissive enough', so she makes him lick her stiletto. She can see his face. It's him! They are kids once again. He's on his second marriage and wants to make it work. They spend a few hours together, and decide never to see each other. He keeps one of her stilettos. She donates the other.  Pic/Kiran Mehta.

What else to do in Zagreb?

Secrets of Gric Tour: A night-tour, this walk also comes with a costumed drama. The tour is based on novels of a famous Croatian writer, Marija Juric Zagorka, who used the history and backdrop of Zagreb for her works. With her fictional characters greeting you along the way, it offers an entertaining glimpse into the city’s colourful past. 

Mirogoj Cemetery: This is where the city’s most famous names sleep. Its opulence could have you mistake it for a palace. What’s more, it’s a secular resting ground, open to religions.

About the museum: Situated inside the baroque Kulmer Palace in the Upper Town of Zagreb, the museum is open all the days of the year except for Christmas Day, New Year’s Day, Easter and All Saints Day.

How to reach Zagreb: Ideally, choose Lufthansa from Mumbai to Zagreb, that includes a a stop-over in Frankfurt, Germany
Visa: A Croatian visa is required for entry to the country. Alternatively, you are allowed entry with a valid Schengen visa, even though Croatia is not a part of the Schengen zone.
Admission costs: 25 Kuna (approx Rs 265)
To send an exhibit, go to:

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