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Design Bridge Visits: The Art of Campari, London

After finishing last week’s Friday Favourites I switched off my laptop and set off for the Estorick Collection for a long overdue gallery visit, and a little creative inspiration. Set inside a beautiful converted Georgian townhouse just off a leafy residential square in Islington (as idyllic as it sounds), the Estorick is a small but perfectly formed gallery space dedicated to modern Italian art. What lured me away from my desk on this particular Friday afternoon was the gallery’s latest exhibition, The Art of Campari.

Yes, Campari. That dark red, bitter Italian apéritif that I remember sat at the back of my parents’ liquor cabinet when I was growing up. But in recent years, with prohibition-style subterranean cocktail bars appearing on every other city street, Campari seems to have found a new popularity amongst the Negroni drinking crowds. The Art of Campari tells the story of this heritage brand, rich in iconic design.

Drawing from the Campari archives in Milan, the exhibition places a heavy emphasis on advertising, although you’ll also find examples of packaging design, glassware, and even poetry on display. Starting in the late 1800s during La Belle Époque, you move through the iconic ads of the 20s to the fashion-inspired work from the Swinging Sixties, taking a minor detour to a World Cup-themed piece from 1990 (whilst not my favourite,  it clearly pays homage to the brand’s creative past). Here are some of the pieces that caught my attention:

Adolf Hohenstein - Bitter Campari, 1901.

Adolf Hohenstein – Bitter Campari, 1901.

Leonetto Cappiello - Campari, 1921.

Leonetto Cappiello – Campari, 1921.

Marcello Nizzoli - Campari l’aperitivo, 1925.

Marcello Nizzoli – Campari l’aperitivo, 1925.

Fortunato Depero - Con un occhio vidi un Cordial con un altro un Bitter Campari, 1928.

Fortunato Depero – Con un occhio vidi un Cordial con un altro un Bitter Campari, 1928.

Franz Marangolo - Campari Soda corre col tempo,1960s.

Franz Marangolo – Campari Soda corre col tempo,1960s.

This exhibition is a perfect showcase of brand design heritage. Every piece of work on display is unmistakably Campari and of its time whilst still feeling progressive. It is design that has stood the test of time. It’s also a showcase of commercial art at its best, and I would bet money that some of you reading this blog have a piece of iconic Campari design at home.

It got me thinking… there is a lot of advertising and commercial design for brands like Campari from the past that we now consider as “art”. I have family members who proudly display those beautiful Babycham coupe-style glasses from the 50s in their kitchen (although they’d never dream of drinking it!), there are framed John Gilroy Guinness ads in our London Studio, and I have a friend whose vintage packaging collection rivals that of the Museum of Brands, Packaging & Advertising.

Can you think of a piece of current brand advertising that you’d happily frame and hang above your fireplace? Be honest. I doubt there is.

Yes, the world of brand design and advertising has changed significantly since the 20s and 60s, but I do think that there is something that we can take away from this idea. Next time you start a new brand design project, why not set yourself a personal brief to create something that people – either today or in the future – would proudly display in their homes, something they would consider art? Challenge yourself to think differently and push boundaries, it might just make new ideas and inspiring (and lasting) design happen. Just a thought.

Franz Marangolo - Bitter Campari, 1960s.

Franz Marangolo – Bitter Campari, 1960s.

The Art of Campari is on display at the Estorick Collection in London until 16th September, find out more on the gallery’s website.

All images courtesy: Archivio Galleria Campari, Milan (via Estorick Collection).

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