The Austin Museum of Art (AMOA) and Arthouse, Austin’s contemporary art museum, merged in 2011 and became AMOA-Arthouse. That unwieldy name and the resulting identity, basically the two original logos shoved uncomfortably together, just added to the general confusion and misconceptions about the new entity. The museum’s awkward name and logo-sandwich, the unfortunate product of a shotgun wedding, just underscored the fact that it used to be two organizations. It didn’t help things that the combined visual arts institutions were housed under two separate roofs in different parts of the city. After the merger AMOA, which had been mostly downtown for several years, moved back into an old stately lakeside villa called Laguna Gloria and Arthouse stayed in the Jones Center, a modern revamped theater on 7th Street and Congress Avenue downtown. Last January the museum’s new executive director, Louis Grachos, enlisted Pentagram to help rename AMOA-Arthouse and to develop an original brand identity that expressed his ambitious vision for the new museum. The chosen name, The Contemporary Austin, and its sleek new look were unveiled for the first time to the public on July 18th.
Partner DJ Stout and lead designer Kristen Keiser in Pentagram’s Austin office began the project by compiling a list of every art museum name they could find. From that exhaustive survey, patterns emerged and it became clear that another acronym like MOMA, MOCA or even AMOA was not an original or forward-thinking way to go. Both AMOA and Arthouse had been promoting and exhibiting contemporary art over the years and neither had the capacity to build large collections. With that in mind the team decided to steer clear of “museum” because the word usually suggests a collecting entity. The Contemporary Austin is a simple, direct name that clearly states the focus and mission of the new institution. In the end, the new moniker represents a clean break from the burdensome histories and baggage of the previously established names and opens the door to a new day. “I’ve lived in Austin for almost 30 years,” says Stout. “And I’ve seen both of these museums soar at times and then flounder. This feels like a breath of fresh air. Kristen and I are honored to be part of something so important to the cultural fabric of our hometown.”