#BookReview The Museum of Modern Love by Heather Rose

About the book

A mesmerising literary novel about a lost man in search of connection – a meditation on love, art and commitment, set against the backdrop of one of the greatest art events in modern history, Marina Abramovic’s The Artist is Present.

‘This is a weirdly beautiful book.’ David Walsh founder and curator, MONA

‘Life beats down and crushes the soul, and art reminds you that you have one.’ Stella Adler

‘Art will wake you up. Art will break your heart. There will be glorious days. If you want eternity you must be fearless.’ From The Museum of Modern Love

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.

Published by Allen & Unwin

Purchase Links

hive.co.uk  – audio version

book depository


What a special book! I chose this randomly from the BorrowBox library audio app and have been utterly absorbed over the past few days as I couldn’t get enough and just had to keep listening! Special mention for the narrator whose voice just fitted perfectly with this tale of art, love and life.

I have to admit to knowing nothing at all of Marina Abramovic, a performance artist who once sat in the Museum of Modern Art for 75 days straight – 8 – 10 hours a day – and invited members of the general public to sit opposite her and do nothing! Just sit! She didn’t eat, walk around, pee … just sat there staring at the different faces of people who queued up for hours to be part of it all. And this story is set around Levin and Jane, two strangers who are dealing with their own forms of grief and end up at the museum to witness this ‘art’ and find themselves questioning their own lives, the world around them and striking up a comforting relationship.

This is a story that ends up being so profound! It explores the questions of ‘what is life all about’, what makes people so drawn to something so simple and ‘what is art’. Jane and Levin have such different but similar pasts that you can’t help but share their concerns, doubts and worries over how they cope with things that life has thrown their way, and that they find strength in each other and the ritual of going to watch this artist and just observe things around them. 

And at the centre of the story is Marina herself – why she’s drawn to the world of performance art and her relationship with her family. I’ve now read more about her as an artist and watched video clips of ‘The Artist Is Present’ and it just seems so amazing that it affected so many people in such different ways. Even celebrities lined up to sit opposite her and be part of it all! Some smiled, some stared blankly, many cried and that’s how this book makes you feel too! There’s something very special about a book that makes you think, take time to ponder, to observe, to listen, to reflect, to just ‘be’ and I’m very glad I found the time to experience this piece of art and the stories of strangers thanks to an author who has captured the feelings beautifully. Life is art in itself and you get a very strong sense of that throughout. Wonderful!