Art with ice and a slice – Richard Holledge reviews “The Art of Campari”

Art with ice and a slice – Richard Holledge reviews “The Art of Campari”

Is Campari the only drink to have its own art movement?

Many might match it for iconic status – the Michelin man, a bottle of Tabasco, Rolls Royce or Coca Cola – but only Campari is associated with an art movement.

“The Art of Campari” at the Estorick Collection of Modern Italian Art, London (until September 16), shows how the work of the revolutionary Futurist movement brought the thoroughly capitalist concept of brand image to the aperitif with such panache that the drink, with its distinctive small conical bottle became one of the world’s unmistakable brands.

Taking Art off the walls and into the streets

There was a logic to it. The Futurists embraced all that was industrial and dynamic but, above all, new and innovative and were attracted to advertising as something modern, something that took bourgeois art off the walls and into the streets. This radical thinking probably meant little to the drink company’s owner Davide Campari but when he was casting around for artists to promote his product he lighted on several angry young Futurists who were happy to forego the ‘slap and the punch’ of their movement and instead express themselves with wit, style and glamour.

Campari Soda corre col tempo!, by Franz Marangolo,
Campari Soda corre col tempo!, by Franz Marangolo,
Adolf Hohenstein - Bitter Campari
Adolf Hohenstein - Bitter Campari

The early posters

Here are examples from the Belle Époque of the early 20th century, the Art Nouveau and Cubist campaigns of the 1920s and on to the elegant designs of the 1960s.

Adolf Hohenstein, whose technique owes something to photographic realism and Art Nouveau, depicts two smart gents at a café table looking on longingly as the soda is squirted into the ruby red aperitif. It has no title, just the name: Bitter Campari. No need to say any more.

depero-fortunato Campari
Forunato Depero drawing

Fortunato Depero

Nowhere does the commercial meet art more than in the posters of Fortunato Depero. Throughout the 1920s he produced a vast quantity of posters and newspaper advertisements including a series of highly stylised, graphical images, bold, witty and geometric, which were nonetheless quirky and surreal.

He believed that ‘the art of the future will be largely advertising… a spellbinding art boldly placed on walls and the facades of big buildings, in shop windows, in trains, alongside pavements and streets, everywhere; a living, multiplied art, not isolated and buried in museums – art free of all academic restraints – art that is cheerful – bold – exhilarating.’
Perhaps nothing epitomised that exhilaration more than the drawings he made which were used to inspire the classic Campari Soda bottle which was launched in 1932 with its ready-to-drink mix. Just add ice and a slice of orange.

Until 16 September. For more information, visit the Estorick Collection website

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