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The Met’s Coming Rebranding: A Puzzlement

MetLogoIt’s no secret that Thomas P. Campbell has been working overtime to make his Metropolitan Museum* different from the one he inherited from Philippe de Montebello. And the change has been dramatic–some covered in the press, some not. At least not yet.

But as the King of Siam sings in “The King and I” (and here I will stop to give a commercial to the current production at Lincoln Center Theater; if you haven’t seen it, go. It is one of the best productions I have ever seen of any musical), some of what is going on at the Met is “a puzzlement.”

MetLogo1For example, word is that the Met will soon introduce a new logo. What precisely is holding this up is unclear. I hear from insiders that the design was chosen some time ago. Perhaps the ad campaign isn’t ready? Perhaps there are second thoughts?

Anyway, Campbell–distancing himself from the past–had (I’m told) hired a rebranding consultant. Some say it’s the same one that changed the name of the Tate in London to simply “Tate.” Dropping the article before a proper noun is a trendy thing to do–witness Facebook. But, I’ve noticed, few publications actually drop “the” before Tate. The Whitney, in its new downtown location, also sports a logo that’s just “Whitney,” no “the,” no “museum,” although its press releases and other written materials continue to use the article and the full name, Whitney Museum of American Art. That’s unlike the Tate, which puts horrible sentences like “Tate holds the national collection of British art” and “Tate is a charity” in its materials.

MetLogo2The Met’s consultant also proposed calling the museum at 1000 Fifth Avenue “Met.” That’s it. Someone–perhaps trustees on the board?–rejected that idea. The last I heard, “the” stays; the museum will be called “the Met.”

But a new logo was designed, replacing the one I’ve posted at the top here (a perfectly good logo, if you ask me). It will, I predict, be more streamlined, designed to appeal to the young. I know people who have seen it, and none of them like it. It’s red, not blue or black, and it looks nothing like the current one, which alludes to Leonardo’s Vitruvian man. Will the Met’s new logo refer to art at all?

The Met has had other logos; I’ve pasted two I found on the web here. I anxiously wait to see what the new one looks like.

*I consult to a foundation that supports the Met.




  1. Money spent on nonsense. The existing logo is a classic. I hope this is not a precursor of silly things to come form the new director.

    • He’s hardly new any more! It has been, what, six years?

    • You are right. The current Met logo is a classic. I’m not certain what you mean when you say that you hope that the new logo is not a precursor of “silly things” to come from Thomas Campbell, but as I report in my longer comment earlier today, there have been plenty of precursors in recent years that shed light on the motivation behind the change from a “classic” logo to one that is modern or “contemporary.” – Louis Torres

  2. David Dixit says

    Surely they have better things to do ?!

    Perhaps he will follow in the footsteps of the London V&A’s stupid ad campaign about a great ‘caf'(é)’ with a museum attached…

    Groan !

  3. Wasn’t the current log created for the Met’s Centennial? Couldn’t we wait for the next Centennial for a new logo?

  4. You predict that the new logo will be “more streamlined, designed to appeal to the young.” I agree. It “looks nothing like the current one, which alludes to Leonardo’s Vitruvian man,” you report, then ask “Will the Met’s new logo refer to art at all?” It will, indirectly, I would guess, not to Old Master art this time, however. Mary Bullock rightly called it a “classic,” but it won’t allude to the art of the contemporary Classical Realist artists I favor either.

    So what’s left? Thomas Campbell has indeed been “distancing himself from the past” as you put it—in a rush I would add. And it’s no secret in which direction he’s headed as numerous press accounts have reported in recent years. What’s left is so-called contemporary art (avant-garde non-art from my perspective).

    Campbell started “distancing himself ” a while back in fact. Jed Perl had it right in “Campbell Meets Warhol” (New Republic, March 2, 2011) when he wrote that “the man seems to be running away from his own experience . . . posing in the Met’s modern and contemporary galleries, with an Andy Warhol portrait of Chairman Mao looming behind him . . . when the essential wonders of the Metropolitan include paintings by Rembrandt. . . .” and that “Campbell the director is in danger of rejecting the values that Campbell represented as a curator.”

    Louis Torres, Co-Editor, Aristos (An Online Review of the Arts)

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