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How the Italian Futurists shaped the Art of Campari

Illustrated advert for Campari showing bottle of red liquid on a table, with a tall glass full of the liquid and a soda siphon

Marcello Nizzoli Campari l’aperitivo, 1925. Campari the Aperitif. Lithographic colour print on paper. Courtesy Archivio Galleria Campari, Milan

The colourful aperitif Campari showcases its poster art at the Estorick Collection in London and Museum Crush talks to the curator about the artists who built the brand

Futurist artist Fortunato Depero, drawing for Campari in the 1920s, believed the publicity poster would be ‘the painting of the future’. His posters used his trademark puppet-like characters and his bold, witty and geometric designs modernised the alcohol brand’s look and created an unmistakable visual identity.

He built on the Modernist background of the Campari advertising campaign, which started in the early 1900s via celebrated artwork by Italian Art Nouveau artist Adolf Hohenstein and the Cubist work of Marcello Nizzoli, and created a sophisticated brand profile.

Illustrated advert for Campari showing black and white abstract design of face

Fortunato Depero Distrattamente mise il Bitter Campari in testa, 1928. He Distractedly put the Bitter Campari on His Head. Ink on Paper. Courtesy Archivio Galleria Campari, Milan

Illustrated advert for Campari showing black and white abstract image of face, bottle and cocktail glasses

Fortunato Depero Con un occhio vidi un Cordial con un altro un Bitter Campari, 1928. With one Eye I saw a Cordial with Another a Bitter Campari. Courtesy Archivio Galleria Campari, Milan

“They’re very iconic images and even now they’re considered one of the main references for people in advertising,” says Roberta Cremoncini, curator of The Art of Campari at the Estorick Collection of Modern Italian Art. “Depero devised some very impressive images and also started the trend of the brand as something fun but also very beautiful and slightly cheeky.

“The idea of people visiting museums to see art was dead for the Futurists – new art would be on the street.”

illustration showing sprite character in red inside an orange peel

Leonetto Cappiello Bitter Campari (Lo Spiritello), 1921. Bitter Campari (The Sprite). Courtesy Archivio Galleria Campari, Milan

Illustrated advert for Campari showing pair of pierrots mirroring each other holding bottles of red and orange liquid

Leonetto Cappiello Campari, 1921. Courtesy Archivio Galleria Campari, Milan

The Futurists famously embraced speed, the machine and innovation but their universe covered every element, from food and theatre to the environment, house and furniture.

Depero’s pioneering campaigns from the mid-1920s became Campari’s most celebrated commissions. His drawings were even used as the basis of the famous conical Campari Soda bottle in Italy in 1932, its fame equivalent to that of Coca-Cola in America.

“The Campari soda bottle has become so iconic in Italy,” says Cremoncini. “In England, because it was never commercialised, it isn’t something we recognise immediately.”

Illustrated advert for Campari showing bottle of yellow liquid on a table with a small glass of the liquid and a dish of food

Marcello Nizzoli Cordial Campari liquor, 1926. Courtesy Archivio Galleria Campari, Milan

Illustrated advert for Campari showing conical bottle of red liquid with legs and an eye

Franz Marangolo Campari Soda corre col tempo!, 1960s. Campari Soda is in Line with the Times! Courtesy Archivio Galleria Campari, Milan

“Cappiello managed to encapsulate some of the most iconic images for Campari. He is very much of the time when bitter Campari became a lifestyle as well,” says Cremoncini.

The image of the clown in a red jumpsuit, entwined in a larger-than-life orange peel, his face transformed into a smile, is still used by Campari’s marketing today.

Franz Marangolo brought a lighter touch to Campari’s campaign as they entered the Swinging Sixties. The emphasis was still on lifestyle and refinement but he used imagery of men and women that fitted with the times. For one poster he transformed the iconic Campari soda bottle into a mini skirt.

Illustrated advert for Campari showing colourful outlines of conical bottles

Franz Marangolo Campari Soda è sempre giovane!, 1960s. Campari Soda is always Young! Mixed media.
Courtesy Archivio Galleria Campari, Milan

“He continues with the tradition of Campari advertising being fun and cheeky,” says Cremoncini. “He encapsulates very much the sixties feeling. Pop art comes into it and he uses the feeling of the art and culture and used it for the brand.”

One can only assume the artists enjoyed drinking Campari and the attitude associated with the liqueur.

“I’m sure everybody did,” says Cremoncini. “Campari was much more than it is now, it was part of the lifestyle.”

Illustrated advert for Campari showing woman in black dress reclining holding a glass with bright pink liquid and campari logo

Franz Marangolo Bitter Campari, 1960s. Mixed Media. Courtesy Archivio Galleria Campari, Milan

The Art of Campari is at Estorick Collection of Modern Italian Art, London, 4 July – 16 September 2018. Free with gallery admission (£6.50 adults/£4.50 conc.)

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The Estorick Collection of Modern Italian Art opened in London in 1998. Its new home - a Grade II listed Georgian building - was restored with support from the Heritage Lottery Fund and contains six galleries, an art library, cafe and bookshop. The Collection is known internationally for its core…

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