The Art of Campari, eloquently explained by the Estorick Collection

Campari at the Estorick

Before I begin writing about the Estorick Collection’s ‘Art of Campari’ exhibition, a few words about the lovely Georgian building in which it is hosted. Located in Islington, this Grade II-listed building was built in 1807 by the entrepreneur Henry Leroux and remained a private home until 1916. An art gallery since 1994, several years ago it underwent a major renovation, turning an already attractive venue into one of North London’s “must visit” destinations – particularly when the weather is fine and you can enjoy coffee and cake in the Estorick’s garden once you’ve soaked up the works of art inside.

As for the couple after whom the Collection is named – Eric and Salome Estorick – we have much to thank them for. Eric was an American writer and political scientist who emigrated to England following World War II. He met Salome on board the Queen Elizabeth ocean liner; she was the daughter of textile manufacturers who left Leipzig in 1932 and settled in Nottingham, where they had considerable success. Eric and Salome married in 1947 and throughout their marriage remained passionate collectors of modern Italian art.

When I heard that the Estorick Collection was hosting an exhibition dedicated to Campari advertising I was slightly taken aback. However, as the exhibition makes clear, from the very beginning Campari’s advertising strategy closely reflected the ongoing evolution of modern Italian art and many of the images associated with its products are now considered masterpieces not only of commercial design but works of art in their own right.

Campari plaques

It was under Davide Campari’s leadership that the company began to pursue a dynamic approach to marketing its products. He purposefully availed himself of the talents of a range of leading Italian artists, who interpreted the appeal of Campari products – and, just as importantly, the lifestyle with which they were associated.

I was interested to learn that Campari was one of the first companies to fully harness the power of the advertising poster, which emerged as a new and effective means of communications towards the end of the 19th century. Campari teamed up with some of the most celebrated poster designers of the early 1900s, including Leonetto Cappiello, Marcello Dudovich, Adolf Hohenstein and Marcello Nizzoli.

The Sprite
‘Bitter Campari (The Sprite)’ by Leonetto Cappiello (1921)

Cappiello, creator of the dramatic image above, was one of the most widely-acclaimed publicity artists of the 20th century. He developed an original concept of the publicity poster, in which dark backgrounds throw forms and figures into strong relief, creating bold imagery and lively chromatic contrasts.

For his part, Marcello Dudovich is considered one of the absolute masters of the Italian publicity poster and was the country’s most significant exponent of Art Nouveau advertising. I loved his elegant design below, from 1913:

Cordial Campari
‘Cordial Campari (Women and Officers)’ by Marcello Dudovich

However, it was the ground-breaking campaigns created by Futurist artist Fortunato Depero that became Campari’s most celebrated campaigns. From the 1920s, his bold, geometric designs modernised Campari’s look, creating an unmistakeable brand identity.

Bitter Campari - Fortunato Depero
‘Bitter Campari’ by Fortunato Depero

Depero believed that his activity in this sphere was of equal importance to his fine art production, stating, “Although I paint freely-inspired pictures every day, my imagination exalts our industrial products with an equal harmony of style, with the same love, with no less enthusiasm and care”.

Depero’s conviction that “the art of the future will be largely advertising” continued to inform Campari’s post-war commissions, which included vibrant designs epitomising the spirit of the ‘Swinging Sixties’. I liked these more recent designs but alas, they turned out to be not particularly photogenic. So instead, I will close with this highly-topical design created in 1990 by Ugo Nespolo to coincide with the World Cup being held that year in Italy. Featuring Depero’s distinctive exuberant cartoon characters, I’m sure you will agree it is the perfect way in which to conclude this post, as we get ready to enjoy the 2018 World Cup Final later today.

Campari Italia 90
‘Campari’ by Ugo Nespolo (1990)

Do go and explore this fascinating exhibition (and the rest of the Estorick Collection) for yourself if you get chance. As well as posters and original artworks, it contains a range of vintage Campari crates, glasses, plaques and other ephemera – all guaranteed to put a nostalgic smile on your face.

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