David Bowie to Camille Walala: a history of Montreux Jazz Festival posters

David Bowie to Camille Walala: a history of Montreux Jazz Festival posters

Camille Walala is the latest artist to be given carte blanche on the iconic Montreux Jazz Festival poster. As the 56th edition approaches (1 – 16 July 2022), we look back on the most memorable designs since 1967, including those by David Bowie, Andy Warhol, Keith Haring, Sylvie Fleury and Julien Opie 

The worlds of jazz music and visual art have long been entwined. From Mondrian to Matisse, Pollock to Basquiat, many artists have been enchanted by this concoction of rhythm, improvisation and energy. 

Since 1967 – when the likes of Miles Davis, Nina Simone and Ella Fitzgerald ruled the airwaves – the Montreux Jazz Festival has blended these worlds, offering visual artists free rein over the creation of its official poster.

A history of Montreux Jazz Festival posters

Early years saw icons of 20th-century art leave their mark (although it was a notably male line-up). Among them were Milton Glaser, Shigeo Fukuda, and Max Bill. Keith Haring produced a trio of posters in 1983 and another in collaboration with Andy Warhol three years later. In 1995 David Bowie stepped up to the plate. More recently – as the festival has broadened its musical remit to the likes Muse, Radiohead, Kendrick Lamar, Pharrell Williams, Ed Sheeran, Alicia Keys, Adele, Lady Gaga – it has welcomed contemporary art takeovers from John Armleder, Julian Opie, Sylvie Fleury, Christian Marclay, and JR. 

1983 Montreux Jazz Festival posters by Keith Haring (yellow, pink, green)
1983 Montreux Jazz Festival posters by Keith Haring (yellow, pink, green)

Though the Lake Geneva event was cancelled for the first time in 2020, the festival didn’t let something like coronavirus get in the way of its zest for creativity. Organisers instead commissioned artists to create original artworks in response to the apt theme of ‘Silent Shores’. Among them were illustrator Malika Favre, artist and Gucci collaborator Ignasi Monreal, and graphic designer Yoann Lemoine, who also performs as a singer-songwriter under the alias Woodkid. Montreux Jazz Festival posters are available to purchase as editions through the festival’s website. 

For the festival’s 56th edition – which runs 1 – 16 July 2022 and will include performances by Lionel Richie – the responsibility of capturing the festival’s vibrancy in visual form has fallen on the shoulders of French artist Camille Walala. Occupying a space between Constructivism, Pop Art and Memphis, Walala is well known for explosive, graphic work that has encompassed full-façade murals, 3D installations, interiors, set design and brand collaborations. For her digitally created poster, Walala has opted for textured, confetti-like patterns that meet with bold-coloured geometric shapes and black and white stripes, the latter referencing piano keys. 

‘For the festival poster, I wanted to convey movement and rhythm with dancing shapes and a wide variety of colours,’ says Walala. ‘I have several notebooks full of various patterns and motifs that form the basis of my visual vocabulary. Like a piece of music, I use these different contrasting elements to find a balance, a harmony.’ §

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