book review: The Museum of Modern Love by Heather Rose



Algonquin Books, 2018


The Museum of Modern Love is a tender and thought-provoking book. Fusing fact and fiction, it centers around a real piece of performance art that was showcased at the MOMA in 2010 – The Artist is Present by the Serbian artist Marina Abramović. It then weaves together the narratives of several fictional characters, all of whom attend the performance and become so captivated by it that they attempt to use Marina’s art as a way to process the grief in their own lives.

As someone who adores contemporary art and performance art, I find the highly controversial Marina Abramović to be a fascinating figure. The love and respect that Heather Rose has for Marina (to whom this novel is dedicated) can be felt on every page and it made it a joy to read. The parts of the novel that focused on Marina were the highlights for me – they helped give me such a clear picture of this piece of art and where it fit in with the rest of Marina’s career

Unfortunately this did naturally mean that Rose’s fictional creations, Arky and Jane, paled in comparison for me. I never fully believed Jane’s character – she seemed too poised and too articulate for the role that she was supposed to be playing in the story. Arky on the other hand I did find more interesting, though he resisted my emotional engagement rather strongly and consequently I never felt particularly compelled by his narrative. But for its thoughtful portrayal of Marina and its tender exploration of grief and its wonderful depiction of the contemporary art world, I just loved this.

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