Skip to main content

‘Broken relationships’ exhibition a place to ‘feel all the feels’

The exhibition of items from broken relationships is on display in the Herron Galleries at Eskena... The exhibition of items from broken relationships is on display in the Herron Galleries at Eskenazi Hall, as well as several other locations on and off campus. Photo by Mare Milin, Museum of Broken RelationshipsThe collaborators behind “The Museum of Broken Relationships Indianapolis,” an interdisciplinary community art project at IUPUI, understand why people may be unsure about visiting the exhibition.

“I can appreciate the hesitation,” said Lois H. Silverman, professor of museum studies in the School of Liberal Arts at IUPUI. “Why visit an exhibition that deals with difficult topics like loss, grief and death, or that might raise personally painful memories?”

She’s quick to answer that question.

“The objects and stories can make you laugh, learn, shift your thinking, gain insight, marvel at human resilience and appreciate how broken relationships shape and connect us,” she said. “The exhibition provides a unique place to feel all the feels. You might find it therapeutic or downright cathartic. And it’s free!”

Silverman and Laura Holzman, associate professor of art history and museum studies, led a team of students, community partners and IUPUI faculty and staff who contributed to the project.

The exhibition is on display in the Herron Galleries at Eskenazi Hall, as well as several other locations on and off campus, from Feb. 8 to April 22.

Silverman and Holzman talked to IUPUI Today about the exhibition’s origins, what makes it unique, its connection to the community and why you shouldn’t miss the show.

What is the Museum of Broken Relationships?

Lois H. Silverman. Photo provided by Lois H. Silverman. Lois H. Silverman. Photo provided by Lois H. Silverman.Silverman: MBR is the creation of two Croatian artists, Olinka Vištica and Dražen Grubišić, who were once a couple. When they broke up, they divvied up their shared belongings, like couples do, and came upon some items that were just too emotional for either person to keep. Being artists, they sought a creative solution.

The result was an initial, modest display of these objects, along with those of friends who they invited to contribute their own “broken relationship” objects and stories. This concept has resonated universally. Since they began this project in 2006, the Museum of Broken Relationships has become a permanent brick-and-mortar location in Zagreb, Croatia, an international collection of objects and a touring museum of crowd-sourced local exhibits.

Holzman: In many museums, the people who work at the museum go through a very extensive process of finding things to acquire and carefully deciding whether to bring them into the collection or not. At the Museum of Broken Relationships, it works differently. Anyone who’s had an experience with a broken relationship is invited to donate an object and a story related to that experience. And not just romantic relationships.

How has the community responded to the project?

Laura Holzman. Photo by Iman Pirzadeh. Laura Holzman. Photo by Iman Pirzadeh.Holzman: The donations to the exhibition are anonymous, so we will never publish who contributed what to the collection. But a few people have reached out to me, mentioning that they have donated. One person said they were so happy to give their object a new and meaningful home.

We’ve partnered with a few organizations to cultivate donations from their community members, and the representatives from those groups have been really excited about being able to participate in this project. Other partner organizations that are hosting what we’re calling satellite displays have also been enthusiastic. I’m looking forward to seeing how these exhibits take on special resonance in those off-campus locations at the Garfield Park Arts Center, Central Library and Indiana Youth Group.

Give an overview of the Valentine’s Day event.

Silverman: Although it may not seem so at first glance, the Museum of Broken Relationships is a celebration of love. “A Fair of the Heart: Valentine’s Night with the Museum of Broken Relationships Indianapolis” is a chance to see the exhibition on this yearly holiday of hearts, to consider love and relationships in a global context and to celebrate the evening in a fun, unique way with a partner, with a friend or by yourself.

Besides seeing the exhibition, participants can attend two different workshops — one about journaling and another that will crowd-source advice on common relationship challenges — and take part in a variety of pop-up activities, including couples drawing, tarot readings, a photo booth and other surprises. It’s fun and there will be snacks!

What are the psychological and emotional aspects and benefits of visiting the exhibition?

Silverman: Experiences of love, loss and growth are things we can all relate to, and visiting the exhibition allows us to connect more deeply with ourselves and each other, throughout Indianapolis and our global community. The Museum of Broken Relationships provides a unique opportunity to reflect on our lives, and the many ways that relationships shape, change and define us. It can inspire us to remember, appreciate, recognize, question, empathize, learn, care and take action.

The Museum of Broken Relationships is a meditation on the power and diversity of human relationships. It can connect us with our shared humanity and enable us to live in a more empathetic world.

What else would you like people to know about this project?

Holzman: For faculty and staff looking to return to more activity on campus, visiting the show is a great opportunity to do something to connect with yourself and the campus community. You can walk over during your lunch break.

Exploring the exhibition will really activate your emotions — in ways that you might anticipate, and ways that you might not anticipate. That can be a welcome change from the head space of sending all those emails, working on all those reports, etc.

Silverman: The IUPUI Museum Studies Program is proud to be the first and only museum studies degree program in the U.S. ever to partner with the Museum of Broken Relationships. An accompanying slate of programs and educational resources will be available during the exhibition’s run, so there are many ways to engage. The project also links the IU School of Liberal Arts and the Herron School of Art & Design in an important partnership.

Both the Circle City and IUPUI have long histories of broken relationships and are currently navigating the impacts of violence, COVID-19, political divides and a host of other challenges. The Museum of Broken Relationships gives us an opportunity to recognize the universality of broken relationships, and the enduring prospect of transformation from loss.