Detritus of broken hearts on show in romantic Paris

By Chine Labbe, Reuters

Posted at Dec 20 2012 10:54 PM | Updated as of Dec 21 2012 09:51 AM

PARIS, France - Paris may be the city of romance, but for one month this much-loved capital is littered with the broken-hearted bric-a-brac of failed relationships in a new exhibition.

The "Museum of Broken Relationships" is part flea market and part final resting place for the many objects, both bizarre and mundane, that testify to love gone awry.

A snip of a dreadlock, red stilettos purchased in the raunchy Pigalle neighbourhood of the French capital, a green plastic duck and of course an unworn wedding ring -- are all on display in the basement of the former municipal funeral home that has been turned into The 104 art and culture centre.

Texts of various lengths and formats, from a few choice words to gushing poems, accompany the anonymous love tokens, along with the name of a city where the romance bloomed. Most striking are two dates - a beginning and an end.

"There is something precious in break-ups because they offer a new perspective on love", said Olinka Vistica, the exhibit's curator. "These objects are not worth anything, it's a flea market, but we try to show them with dignity, and create sort of a temple."

Vistics said the exhibit's Parisian home until Jan. 20 may be symbolic, but not maudlin. The show opened on Wednesday.

Still, "We are not creating a cemetery," Vistica told Reuters, adding that the show felt nevertheless "like a farewell ceremony."

On one pillar, a 19-year marriage is expressed through a book of works by French author Gustave Flaubert that was offered for a 40th birthday.

"A youthful romance which became a lifelong love, transformed, and gave birth to two kids before everything vanished," reads the text.

Further on, a red stiletto is accompanied by the lyrics to a popular French pop song by Les Rita Mitsouko: "Love stories end badly ... in general."

One woman at the show who had donated a memento said the museum offered a "second life" to the symbols of lost love.

"This object that I schlepped around is now part of the collective history," she said.

The touring exhibit, created in 2006 in Croatia, has travelled to more than 20 cities around the world.

At each stop, locals have contributed their own relics to share with the world. In Paris, the exhibit reached a record high with more than 100 mementos donated. The show is a mix of Parisian and international contributions.

"In Paris, just like in other large cities, people live fast, their relationships come and go, and adultery is widespread," Vistica said.

French lovers tend to be excessively introspective, according to Drazen Grubisic, co-creator of the exhibit.

"We've noticed a difference in how the stories are written," he said. "It's like everybody went to the psychiatrist."

While a break-up inspires "truly universal" feelings, the individual stories tell much more about a country's culture, said Vistica.

In the Philippines, for example, many texts talk about the yearning to emigrate while in the Balkans, mentions of war are ubiquitous, she said. One contributed relic was a prosthetic leg from a man wounded in war who had fallen in love with his social worker at a Zagreb hospital.

This museum was itself born of a break-up, that of Vistica, a film producer, and Grubisic, an artist, and started as a temporary exhibition in the garden of a Zagreb gallery begun with contributions from friends.

Six years later, they say working on the museum has helped them respect each other more as they continue to collaborate.

"People, somehow, by donating, put an end to this part of their lives, and can start anew," Grubisic said.