Did you listen to Björk’s Vulnicura? Better question: Were you able to listen to it, nine brutal songs that illuminate in painful detail the dissolution of her thirteen-year relationship with artist Matthew Barney? Most breakups are awful because they’re your own. But when I saw Björk at Carnegie Hall belt out her anguish over her final fucks with her husband, who (from her telling of it, anyway) indelicately shattered their covenant, I found the narrative so raw and specific and prolonged that I left feeling like Barney had just left me—or, at least, that I’d relived every prior breakup of my own, cramped into tiny stadium seating over the course of two hours. I never listened to Vulnicura again.
Suffice it to say, Björk put in the emotional work of getting over her split. But now she’s added a more official nail to that coffin: Last month, the Icelandic iconoclast bought out Barney’s share of the Brooklyn Height’s penthouse the couple purchased together in 2009, and that Björk has since retained.
Unlike many couples who separate over money, Björk and Barney’s breakup was due to, you know, emotions—or the lack thereof. They were both successful artists, each undoubtedly rich beyond concern. In 2014, as separation rumors surfaced, Barney bought his own Fort Greene townhouse.
Compared to the gut-wrenching creative effort Björk put into her recovery, her payment to Barney in December—a little over $1.5 million—probably felt closer to administrative protocol. Maybe she even did it online, never even looked at the man, as she clicked the return key and completed the transfer. Still, if you’ve ever been through a breakup, particularly one in which physical spaces and possessions are purchased and shared, you know that, though the emotional recovery is the real son-of-a-bitch, the minute you get that final chair out of the old space, or exchange a last sum of cash, is somehow the instant real freedom is yours. You never have to see or speak to that person again.
Except, of course, Björk and Barney share a child, so that kind of clean split is gonna be harder. But the buy-out has given it more official dimension. And it seems that Bjork feels this, too; in a message to her fans, she said she’s finished singing about her past. I am going to go out on a limb and say that many of her fans are relieved to hear it. Songs about an anatomical universe are strange but easier to digest, and there is only so much breakup a human can handle.