The saddest, strangest, funniest and grossest exhibits at LA's new Museum of Broken Relationships

Nothing says 'it's over' like a sachet full of belly button lint

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The Independent Culture

If you stroll east down the Walk of Fame, past the Chinese Theatre, Ripley’s 'Believe It or Not!' Odditorium and the phalanx of superhero impersonators and Marilyn Monroe lookalikes, just across the street from the Church of Scientology Information Centre you’ll find the latest addition to Hollywood Boulevard’s long parade of crazy.

The Museum of Broken Relationships opened this month, and its inaugural exhibition consists of 104 objects salvaged from the wreckage of failed or expired relationships, each submitted anonymously by the broken-hearted. There’s an empty tube of toothpaste, a torn pair of blue jeans, a collection of Brazilian Playboy back issues. There’s even a tiny vial of pubic hair.

With its minimalist interior design, the museum seems at odds with the torrent of tack flowing past its front door. But Hollywood is the perfect location, insists its assistant director, Amanda Vandenberg. “There’s so much history and so many broken relationships associated with the Walk of Fame. LA is a city of wild hopes and dreams – and all the defeats that come with that.”

The original Museum of Broken Relationships was founded 10 years ago in Zagreb, Croatia. But when the American lawyer and art collector John B Quinn came across it on a European vacation, he was so taken with the concept that he decided to import it to LA, where it now sits on the former site of a once-legendary lingerie store, Frederick’s of Hollywood.

The museum is “a very sophisticated piece of conceptual art,” says Vandenberg. “When you go through a separation from another human being, whether it’s romantic or familial or with a friend, you feel like no one has hurt that way before, no one has felt like that – but you read these stories and realise that other people have, and it makes you feel very connected.”

Some of the exhibits are small: a spare key, an elaborate Valentine’s card, a cache of love letters. Some are large: a dinosaur piñata, a rusty meat smoker. Several were submitted by art students. Several more were submitted by people from Brooklyn. Others came from as far afield as Mexico, Spain, China and the UK.

The priciest pieces are two diamond rings from spurned lovers who plainly thought revenge would be better served by a museum display than a pawn shop. But every item has a sentimental value, inflated by the story that accompanies it: the poems from an affair derailed by the writer’s meth addiction, the pair of silicone breast implants that a “boob guy” forced on his lover (which she soon had removed after the couple split).

Some of the stories are hilarious, some heart-wrenching. “I love watching people who go through the museum in pairs,” says Vandenberg. “I feel as if, as they read the stories, they get closer and closer together. It’s like they’re presenting a united front, saying: ‘This isn’t going to be us. We’re going to beat the odds.’"