Hullabaloo at the Asian Art Museum

Exactly what's behind that red curtain?
Lights, cameras, red curtains dropping, Sanjay Patel commenting on the mayor's moustache, and the trotting out of who's who in the San Francisco city government and the leadership of the Asian Art Museum... it was quite the spectacle at the museum this morning.  The occasion was the unveiling of the museum's new branding effort (which was hush hush- I had to promise not to write or blog about it until after the event).  The new branding includes the motto: "Awaken the past, inspire the next."  I'm always a fan of awakening and inspiring, but I feel like it should be properly read "Awaken the past,/ inspire the next."  If the lines are parallel in structure, function and (almost) letter count, I feel they should rhyme.  But who am I, really, to judge a rebranding effort that started in 2007 and involved the likes of the "Olympians of design" firm Wolff Olins?  

The "A sign" on the museum's website
The logo (carefully papered over on the entrance doors of the museum when we entered this morning) is an inverted A, which is also apparently a mathematical symbol (I'm sure the sign showed up in my introductory calc class, but that was a long time ago).  Jay Xu, Director of the Asian Art Museum, referred to it as the "A sign" while attempting to get the mayor and associated San Francisco city officials to flash it during pictures this morning.  It's upside down nature makes it a bit hard to emulate... but maybe you know you're really part of the "A team" if you can properly flash the "A sign."  It's the new secret handshake when you enter the museum doors.

Jay Xu watches while Sanjay Patel signs the "A sign"
I for one am happy that the museum is moving toward a more 21st century statement than the standard Asian red and adopting a translucent symbol that can accommodate and reveal a variety of cultural images.  But now that the branding effort is unveiled, let's talk about why I really went this morning:  to meet Sanjay Patel!  Amongst the rest of the press this morning there was a small but fervent Sanjay fan club.  I'd seen his writing on the museum's website, but I have to say that in person he's even more hilarious.  What's better: his discussion of needing to "spank" his presentation to the Asian Art Museum (edit it down) or the fact that his show, which will open on the 2nd floor of the museum November 11th, is entitled "Deities, Demons, and Dudes With 'Staches"?  

Image of Sanjay's drawings from gheehappy.com
Kudos to Sanjay for an excellent job MCing this morning's hullabaloo.  And kudos to Qamar Adamjee, Associate Curator of South Asian Art, for the beautiful Maharaja exhibit currently in the midst of installation.  Yesterday they had to remove the glass doors on the back of the museum to accommodate a huge crate housing an exquisite silver carriage in the exhibition... I got a sneak peak while Jay Xu was interviewed in front of it this morning by ABC news.  

Ah yes, much ado.  I have a piece about the Maharaja exhibit and Sanjay Patel's show in the October issue of India Currents magazine.  As soon as it's out I'll share it here!