The Museum of Modern Love

By Heather Rose Allen & Unwin

She watched as the final hours of The Artist is Present passed by, sitter after sitter in a gaze with the woman across the table. Jane felt she had witnessed a thing of inexplicable beauty among humans who had been drawn to this art and had found the reflection of a great mystery. What are we? How should we live?

If this was a dream, then he wanted to know when it would end. Maybe it would end if he went to see Lydia. But it was the one thing he was not allowed to do.

Arky Levin is a film composer in New York separated from his wife, who has asked him to keep one devastating promise. One day he finds his way to The Atrium at MOMA and sees Marina Abramovic in The Artist is Present. The performance continues for seventy-five days and, as it unfolds, so does Arky. As he watches and meets other people drawn to the exhibit, he slowly starts to understand what might be missing in his life and what he must do.

This dazzlingly original novel asks beguiling questions about the nature of art, life and love and finds a way to answer them.


Heather Rose

The Museum of Modern Love is Heather Rose’s seventh novel. Her novels span adult literary fiction, children’s literature, fantasy/sci-fi and crime. Heather’s previous novels are White Heart (1999), The Butterfly Man (2005) and The River Wife (2009). Heather also writes the acclaimed Tuesday McGillycuddy series for children (written under the pen-name of Angelica Banks with fellow-author Danielle Wood and published internationally). The series is Finding Serendipity (2013) A Week Without Tuesday (2015) and Blueberry Pancakes Forever (2016). Heather won the Davitt Award in 2006 and her work has been shortlisted for the Nita B Kibble Award and the Aurealis Awards, and longlisted for the IMPAC Awards. She is also a recipient of the international Eleanor Dark Fellowship.

Heather was the inaugural Writer in Residence at The Museum of Old and New Art (MoNA) in Hobart 2012-13 where she did much of the research for The Museum of Modern Love. Heather is currently studying Fine Arts at UTAS.

Judges' report


The Museum of Modern Love is narrated by an intriguing unseen presence: an otherworldly companion to artists. This presence describes the intersecting lives of characters who form part of the audience for Marina Abramovic’s remarkable re-enacted retrospective and performance, The Artist Is Present, in 2010 in the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Abramovic’s confronting and highly disciplined artwork invited members of the public to sit facing her in the gallery, and the experience provides some of the characters in The Museum of Modern Love with an almost hallucinatory insight into their own lives. The characters are finely developed, and the question of what constitutes art is refracted through their experiences in ways that never seem contrived. This is an ambitious novel that demonstrates the value of art as a catalyst for love, connection, and an apprehension of mystery.