In marketing circles, it’s called “rebranding.” Organizations often refer to it as a new look or a new direction.
At a news conference today, Asian Art Museum Director Jay Xu announced results of a two-year effort to introduce “a new vision and new brand promise, reinventing ourselves to engage a broader audience.”
The major sign of reinvention, unveiled today at the museum in San Francisco, is a new corporate logo designed by Wolff Olins, a firm with 500 clients around the world and best known for creating the logo for the 2012 London Olympics.
The logo, projected on a large screen and also presented as a big sculpture, is an upside-down letter “A,” which may vary in color, or have designs superimposed on it. Next to it is the word “Asian.”
Museum Chief Engagement Officer Dori Sera Bailey, in charge of rebranding, said, “Our logo says we are approaching the museum from a new perspective, offering fresh viewpoints to a collection spanning 6,000 years. Our identity is bold and tells the world we have something to say. It also says we’re ‘Asian for all’ — an upside-down ‘A’ is the mathematical symbol signifying ‘for all.’”
Mayor Ed Lee called it “a great contribution to the revitalization of our Civic Center.”
The new look coincides with the Oct. 21 opening of “Maharaja: The Splendor of India’s Royal Courts,” an exhibit that will reflect the museum’s mission, which Xu defined as a renewed effort to appeal to “both art lovers and art newbies.”
During fiscal year 2011, the museum had approximately 180,000 visitors, not including school groups, and operated on a $17 million budget.
Admission, between $7 and $12, is low among major museums, although tickets for the Maharaja exhibit will have a $5 surcharge, and Target stores will continue to sponsor free admission on the first Sunday each month.
The rebranding campaign, paid for by donors and not drawn from the museum’s general operating budget, cost approximately $400,000. Efforts began with extensive local, national and international surveys of museum members, visitors, volunteers, museum professionals and arts organizations.
While consensus confirmed that the museum’s collection of Asian art was well respected in the Western world, Bailey said, officials realized that the museum “could be more relevant and do a better job engaging a broader audience.”
Bailey and Xu emphasized that in addition to collecting and displaying works of historic art, the museum intends to have a larger role in supporting Asian contemporary art. The slogan is: “Awaken the past, inspire the next.”