In Arts + Entertainment

How Campari Became More Art Than Advertising

Brought to you by Campari

Celebrate 100 years of Negroni at Negroni Week, happening at venues around Australia from June 24 to 30.

From its signature electric-red colour to its daring advertising posters, Campari (beloved in a classic Negroni) quickly built a reputation for being quirky, fun, and of its time.

Gaining popularity as a favourite ‘twist’ of bartenders around the world, the apertif quickly went from being the preferred drink of those in the know to earning its place as a mainstay on any respectable establishment’s drinks menu.

Negronis became known as the drink of choice for Futurist artists in ‘30s-era Italy, when they gathered at the Taverna del Santopalato restaurant in Turin. And, a few decades later, for Andy Warhol’s in-crowd during the height of the Pop Art movement – when the artist began to be seen as a new kind of celebrity.

Campari continues to attract young creatives who seek a season-defying drink: one that is as alluring as it is aristocratic, and as intriguing as it is inspiring.

For those who preferred not to play it safe, Campari challenged how good taste could be realised through art, and sought ingenuity: sourcing unusual ingredients which elevated the original bittersweet soul of the drink – from star anaise to sparkling wine.

Campari’s 100-year artistic legacy can be traced back to businessman and marketing maverick Davide Campari, who transformed his father’s liquor company from a family-owned business into an international brand.

From the 1920s onward, he collaborated with the trendiest designers of the time. This included Italian artists and designers like Marcello Nizzoli, Leonetto Cappiello, and Adolf Hohenstein. In true trendsetting spirit, Campari did something unprecedented: he let them run the show when it came to defining the drink’s artistic identity.

Today, artists still play a pivotal role in shaping the Italian aperitif’s global presence. Defying the traditional confines of a tried-and-true formula, Campari walks confidently forward towards a modern artistic vision with a fearlessness for doing things differently. Below, we take a look at how the brand has evolved over the last century and the inspiration behind some artist-led initiatives launched in recent times.

Leonetto Cappiello and Marcello Nizzoli’s bold art posters from the early 1920s

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The advertising poster format was elevated to a higher art form — balancing glamour and nostalgia — through the vision of Italian artists like Leonetto Cappiello and Marcello Nizzoli in the 1920s.

Bright, bold, and uncomplicated, these posters were designed to connect with commuters who could only steal a glance at art on their way to or from work; a welcome distraction from the busyness of city life.


Fortunato Depero’s black and white graphics from the late 1920s

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A few years later, celebrated Futurist artist Fortunato Depero was responsible for creating the iconic soda bottle (which is still in production today) and popularising Campari’s retro-futuristic visual style.

Depero’s artworks were rebellious and yet the colour of Campari stand out against other drinks on the market.

Depero saw these sketches as an opportunity to go beyond traditional marketing. He often described the modern-day poster as the “art of the future”.


Franz Marangolo’s 1960s Pop Art and fashion-inspired adverts

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“Campari Soda is always young!” declared a sixties era poster by illustrator Franz Marangolo.

Many of the brand’s post-war art commissions embraced a vibrant, unselfconscious love of colour.

His youthful, fashion-inspired illustrations looked like they could’ve come straight out of a classic issue of Marie Claire or Vogue. Bringing the fun-loving, hedonistic Swinging Sixties to life, Marangolo’s artwork was nothing short of bright and cheerful — a mood which is still reflected in Campari’s flavour and colour combinations today.


Bruno Munari’s iconic 1960s print of the Campari logo evolution

Manifesto Campari, 1964

Manifesto Campari, 1964

Designed by Bruno Munari for Campari, this kaleidoscopic image was released at the same time that the M1 subway line first opened in Milan, Italy. Munari designed the image with the fact that it would be subjected to large crowds of people and quick glimpses through windows rather than the slow, uninterrupted nature of witnessing art in a gallery in mind.

It was designed to constantly be edited, and to be in motion — the logos building up and disappearing as the scene around the image changed.

It was also a reflection of how the brand had evolved over the decades. Take a closer look at the image and you’ll see how with Campari’s earliest iterations of custom hand lettering evolved into Xeroxed typography.

The image also signalled a noticeable shift into contemporary art — images created for modern city living, and a real interest in seeing the audience as co-creators in the art of Campari.


Mark McLure x Campari Creates debuts for London Design Festival 2018

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Forty years on, London-based abstract artist Mark McClure wanted to create the experience of being immersed inside a Campari cocktail.

Inspired by the unmistakable ruby red hue of the Campari cocktail – as well as the movement and transparency of its liquid in a tall glass, an interactive art installation called The Mostra was opened to the public.


#N100CREATIONS launches in 2019

In celebration of 100 years of the Negroni, Campari has launched the Centenary Negroni Art Project to celebrate a century of their undeniable connection to artmaking.

Named #N100creations, the initiative encourages Australian artists to shape the next chapter of Campari’s relationship to the art world. The major theme this year for submissions is a visual interpretation of the Negroni.

As part of the series, select artists will be exhibited alongside classic masterpieces at the Galleria CAMPARI in Milan, Italy – icons that helped create the original Campari Art Posters, like Leonetto Cappiello and Marcello Dudovich.

Two award-winning Australian artists are on board to kick off the project: Melbourne-born photographer Michael Corridore – who is known for his mysterious “fictional reality” images.

Another artist exhibiting is Sydney-based multimedia artist Jamie Preisz – who won the prestigious Archibald Packing Room Prize in 2018 – is known for his striking portraits exploring ephemerality, constructed realities, and physical presence.

Both works will be exhibited among other works from Saint Ali, Marissa Mu, Jesse Chick and John Sheehy at the Official Negroni Week Opening Party – a global charity initiative – on June 24 in Sydney. During the event, Preisz’s artwork will be auctioned off for charity.

The drink of choice for discerning types like Bond and Anthony Bourdain, Campari’s legacy is equal parts poetic (born of a secret recipe) and open to reinterpretation (while there’s an art to making a the most definitive version of the Negroni, it can be reclaimed in a well-thought-out experiment of your own).

As part of Negroni Week, the Opening party will present fifteen of Sydney’s best cocktails bars, opening them up to the challenge of showcasing their creative twists on the original Negroni recipie.

While the brand may have evolved stylistically over the last century, what remains unchanged is Campari’s attitude: respect for its heritage of collaboration and risk-taking, marked by a long lineage of partnerships with ahead-of-their-time visual artists. Simultaneously, Campari still seeks to challenge the status quo: questioning what it means to shock or surprise, and asking us to be open to new ways of seeing the world around us.

(Lead image courtesy of Campari)

For more information about Negroni Week 2019 in Sydney, see the Campari Facebook page.

Drink responsibly.

Published 24 June, 2019