London remembers the hazy days of 1960s alcohol advertising with Campari
This summer, London’s Estorick Collection is serving a tall glass of visual history. In ‘The Art of Campari’, the Canonbury Square gallery traces the bitter elixir’s pioneering approach to advertising. Drawn from Campari’s extensive archives in Milan, the show spans the original Belle Époque posters, through its revolutionary campaigns of the 1920s, culminating in the elegant designs of the 1960s.
The storied ruby-red aperitivo has a rich heritage in creativity and design. Founded in Milan in 1860 by Gaspare Campari (1828-1882), it was under his son Davide Campari (1867-1936) that the company pursued a more dynamic approach to marketing, harnessing the emerging power of the poster. Aiming to create a sophisticated brand profile, by the early 1900s Campari was working with some of the most celebrated poster designers of the day: Leonetto Cappiello, Marcello Dudovich, Adolf Hohenstein, and Marcello Nizzoli.
Bitter Campari (Lo Spiritello), by Leonetto Cappiello, 1921
Initially attuned to an art nouveau sensibility, it was the visual punch of campaigns created by futurist artist Fortunato Depero that became Campari’s most celebrated commissions, from the mid-1920s onwards. Populated by his trademark puppet-like characters, Depero’s bold, witty and geometric designs modernised Campari’s look, creating an unmistakable identity that remains with it to this day. Depero’s perceptive belief that the publicity poster would be ‘the painting of the future’ continued to be reflected in Campari’s post-war commissions, and many of his original designs have been repurposed on contemporary labels, helping Campari achieve its nostalgic, tipple-of-yesterday aesthetic.
Like the Campari recipe of bitter herbs and aromatic plants (which remains unchanged since its 1860s inception) the brand’s graphic identity has been consistent in its commitment to glamour and artfulness. Each poster in the collection emits a timelessness, matched by the Milanese malt.