What’s wrong with this picture?

The Metropolitan Museum introduces its new marque

There goes the neighborhood

Art is not for the timid. Neither is (re)branding. Both provoke intense reactions and when the brand in question is an iconic museum, everyone’s a critic.

The Metropolitan Museum has—for a variety of reasons (new leadership and an expanded footprint among them)—decided not to leave well enough alone but to reinvent its much beloved logo. Launched in 1971, it is itself a work of art, with graphic elements combined in a harmonious whole, hinting at the art and architectural treasures residing within. It was a distinctive and much-desired marque.

But time marches on and the Met’s new administration wanted something more modern, more encompassing, friendlier and accessible. And it chose Wolff Olins, the design firm behind the controversial London Olympics and Tate logos, to refresh the museum’s identity.

Like the philistine who says, “I don’t know much about art, but I know what I like,” I loathe the new logo. It looks like a car wreck and the introductory ad appearing in today’s New York Times is equally a mess. Pretentious, inelegant copy and a layout with all the visual appeal of a letterhead.

Wolff Olins surely knows better than anyone the worth of a brand like the Metropolitan Museum—the values it embodies, the stories it tells and the promise it makes to its patrons. This rebrand upends all of that. It is a sacrilege and a slap to the face of a great institution (and the people who love it).

Don’t mess with The Met.

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