The Museum of Modern Love

By Heather Rose Allen & Unwin


Heather Rose

Judges' report


The Museum of Modern Love is an exceptional novel that reimagines Marina Abramovic’s 2010 performance of ‘The Artist is Present’, in which she silently encountered individual members of a larger audience of viewers while seated in the atrium of the Museum of Modern Art in New York. The performance itself was an intensely compelling exhibition of the power of silence and vision, and Heather Rose develops a suite of intersecting characters, all visitors to the performance, all subject to their own daily routines, to the possibilities of conversation and restitution, to hope and bereavement, to a need for internal guidance and meaning.

The novel is grounded in the everyday lives of a rich and compelling cast of characters, but it also transmutes the intensity and significance of Abramovic’s work into the medium of literature, where people move, in their thoughts, conversations and memories, between everyday life and art, as the modest confrontation of the artist’s gaze in her performance stimulates each character’s individual confrontation with questions that lie at the heart of their own lives. This novel is an unusual and remarkable achievement, a meditation on the social, spiritual and artistic importance of seeing and being seen, and listening for voices from the present and past that may or may not be easy to hear.

It is rare to encounter a novel with such powerful characterisation, such a deep understanding of the consequences of personal and national history, such affection for a city and the people who are drawn to it, and such dazzling and subtle explorations of the importance of art in everyday life.

Further reading


Reviews:

‘From its conception to its last page, the book challenges our perceptions of where life ends and art begins (if they were ever separate to begin with). As readers, we sometimes find ourselves in the atrium, keenly observing from the periphery, or we find ourselves pulled along in the currents of all these connected lives. When the book is at its most powerful, we’re also invited into the centre, asked if we’d like to take a seat and meet the gaze.’ Dominic Smith, The Australian

The Museum of Modern Love is more than just that rare treat, a book that requires something of the reader – it is a book that painstakingly prepares you for its own requirements. In a playful way, this bold new novel by Heather Rose is an astute meditation on art, bravery, friendship, love, how to live, and on dying.’ Louise Swinn, Sydney Morning Herald

‘It’s true that the subject matter is fascinating in itself but Heather Rose deserves credit for taking the initial inspiration to create her own thoughtful, multi-layered work; deftly grabbing the reader’s attention right from the beginning and sustaining the multiple narrative threads throughout. The theme of connection is predominant and I found the most significant part of the novel to be how the characters respond to the exhibition and whether they are able to take that experience into their own lives (i.e. truly connect art to life).’ Amanda Rayner, Readings

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