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X marks the spot? Probably not in the case of Elon Musk

24 July 2023

Introducing Rakewell, Apollo’s wandering eye on the art world. Look out for regular posts taking a rakish perspective on art and museum stories.

As everyone knows, art deco is not a precise school but a retrospective label applied in 1966 to describe a style of design and architecture popular from about the 1910s to the 1930s. Rakewell is reminding you of this now as the term is currently enjoying undue prominence on account of none other than Elon Musk. Not content with introducing various ‘optimisations’ to improve profitability at Twitter – and in the process nearly halving its ad revenue – Musk has now ditched the famous blue bird logo for a stark X.

This is not just any X. This is the X that ‘should, of course, be Art Deco’, according to Musk’s own tweets (which will no longer be called ‘tweets’ – rather, they too shall now be called Xs). The X looks as if it is suffering from a split personality, with a single cross bar on one side and a doubled line for the other. Its attempt at art deco elegance isn’t helped by the fact that diagonals pixelate more easily than straight lines, thereby undoing any sense of style the logo might have had – to say nothing of the fact that this X is in fact nothing more than a Unicode character (U+1D54F, if you want to try it out).

Musk has been clear that this rebrand is part of his progress towards creating an ‘everything app’, where you can send a tweet, pay a bill and book a cab on the same platform. Clearly the letter X holds much potential. But Rakewell would quietly point out that X can mean many things. For every Madame X by John Singer Sargent, where the X seems to stand for everything from power to beauty, just look at Wade Guyton and his endless printed Xs that made up an entire movement, which may or may not now be closely related to a zombie art market. And of course, Kaws replaced the eyes of many creatures with Xs – need we say more? Rakewell can’t help but feel that Musk might not have captured the zeitgeist with his single letter. Instead, rather than any x-rated relevancy, it’s all a little zzz.

Got a story for Rakewell? Get in touch at rakewell@apollomag.com or via @Rakewelltweets.