Museum of Broken Relationships: Artifacts of the jilted on view at Soho House pop-up
What do you do when after five years of marriage your husband says he feels stuck and he “probably” doesn’t love you anymore? You cram your wedding dress in an old dill pickle jar because you can’t bring yourself to look at it anymore -- but you also can’t stand the thought of throwing it away.
When this glass vessel is no longer sufficient to hold the totality of your loss, you donate the dress in a jar to the Museum of Broken Relationships, which put the piece on exhibition along with a few other items from the permanent collection at the members-only Soho House in West Hollywood on Monday night.
“He’s been gone a year and I haven’t really known what to do with the dress,” wrote the anonymous lender, explaining that she shoved it in a jar “mostly for space reasons but any sort of appropriate pickle metaphors can also be invoked.”
The effect of donating an item appears twofold. You have liberated yourself from a painful memory while also enshrining it in the most permanent way possible: as a museum piece. Or as one museum fan pointed out, “Everybody’s heartbreak feels like it belongs in a museum.”
It was there that John B. Quinn, a founding partner of Los Angeles law firm Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan, happened to come across it while on a family vacation and decided it needed a home in the City of Angels. He brought arts consultant and dealer Alexis Hyde on as museum director, and things have been steaming along ever since.
The concept is simple and effective. A single item is placed on a pedestal under a glass case with a short narrative of its provenance. Monday’s exhibit featured shorn-off dreadlocks from Oslo that someone’s lost beloved tied together using matching sewing thread; a pair of fake sculpted female breasts from Belgrade, Serbia, that signaled the end of a marriage (a woman’s husband requested she wear them in bed); and a Texas license plate from a donor who followed a boy to the Lone Star State only to have things end badly.
To drive this point home, the one-night-only pop-up event at Soho House featured a series of performances from a group called Public School. It specializes in “charismatics and neurotics” who tell true personal stories to an audience without the use of notes.
Monday’s theme was, of course, broken relationships, with speakers bringing along an item to discuss that they would like to donate. It was an exercise in the museum coming to life.
Allison Bennett, a television writer, brought vintage cupcake toppers from her 2009 wedding. Little did she know that six years later her husband would dump her over the phone, she said, and, during a serious discussion about why, break into an overzealous rendition of “Every Day Is a Winding Road” by Sheryl Crow.
And so, another item takes its place in the Museum of Broken Relationships.
Have your own broken-heart story to tell? Send me a picture and the tale, and use the hashtag #brokenships, and we’ll post it in a separate story.
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