Alcohol brands have long exploited the power of suggestion through visual representation to connect with their consumers. Campari however, whilst bold in taste, has always been careful to keep its passion classy. TONIQUE explores the importance of art and aesthetics in the world of Campari.

Say the words Campari and many things might spring to mind; red, bright, bitter, daring and above all, unique. Having created his special aromatic and decidedly bitter spirit in 1850, Gaspare Campari knew that he had to come up with a way of ensuring that his product was not only something that people wanted to try, but something they would want to drink again and again. He knew that he wanted his customers to have an emotional connection with his brand rather than just an association based on taste alone and this association started with a kiss. Or at least, one of Campari’s earliest advertising campaigns did. From the start, Campari has always chosen to make a statement through the form of artistic expression; something that we can see from their associations with artists during the 20th century, right through to their most recent print and television collaborations with actors such as Salma Hayek, Jessica Alba and Benicio del Toro.

Visual representation has been the cornerstone of brand Campari since the late 1800s. The brand’s early forms of artwork are firmly rooted in the Belle Époque era; a period that celebrated extravagance and indulgence. Although the movement stemmed in Paris, many artists in Europe were influenced by this same indulgence in the visual arts. Advertising posters from this time often depict a way of life that barely seems plausible; promoting products that would only enhance, pleasure and gratify your every desire. A prominent figure during this time was Leonetto Cappiello. Cappiello found himself in Paris during the late 19th century and was soon seduced by the intoxicating mood of the city. His skills as a painter and his understanding of image association in order to promote a product meant that he became one of the leading posterists of his time.

He was particularly sought after by the Italian and French liquor industry for which he produced over a hundred posters during his career. His poster ‘Spiritello’ which he created for Campari in 1921 is considered to be not only one of his signature works, but also one of Campari’s most-remembered posters. The poster depicts a sprite, encased in bright orange peel, mischievously holding a bottle of Campari aloft, as if in celebration.


However Campari quickly moved on; the bitter spirit with a bright and bold character needed a statement; cue Marcello Dudovich’s famous poster depicting the passionate kiss of two lovers in private. Dudovich’s work captured a moment of intimacy – the lovers are breathtakingly close, their world seems silent, filled only by their passion for each other. This poster had a red colour wash and is considered to be the forerunner of the ‘red passion’ campaign that Campari would develop in later years.

In the 1930s, it was creativity in a different format that contributed to the visual history of Campari through the work of Fortunato Depero. Futurist painter, writer, sculptor and graphic designer, Depero’s designs embraced strong use of geometry and dynamic style. He was not only responsible for moving Campari’s artwork away from the chi-chi opulence of the Belle Époque, he also designed the Camparisoda bottle. Container of the world’s first single-serve mixed drink, the Camparisoda bottle is considered so iconic in design that not only is it still in use today, it is a permanent subject of study during the annual Milan Design Week.

Campari’s association with artists continued to evolve during the 20th century, mirroring the mood of the social and cultural landscapes. Post-war advertising saw Campari collaborating with avant-garde artist Carlo Fisanotti or Fisa, as he was better known. His striking poster of a Campari bottle peeking out from is paper wrapping was a resounding success. Artist Nino Nanni even had the idea of depicting a bottle of Campari circling the planet earth like a Sputnik satellite. Although there were several successful collaborations throughout the 80s and 90s with artists of distinction such as Milton Glaser, Campari’s passion really began to burn brightly through the artwork of its ‘Red Passion’ calendars.  A retrospective of these calendars shows some running themes: the decision to be daring, the celebration of the female form and Campari’s passion for sensuality. If we look at some of Campari’s most recent calendars, we can only try and collect our jaws from the floor as Salma Hayek clutches a man in one hand and a bottle of Campari in another.

2010 saw Campari celebrate its 150th anniversary and with it, the establishment of the Galleria Campari in Milan. The Galleria is a space entirely dedicated to those works of art, or to the artistic collaborations that have had the most significant contribution to Campari’s history. Visitors are guided through three different experiences; a huge wall used for image projection, a red carpet sensory experience and a media ‘touch-table’ for browsing through the brand’s history. In addition, there are also temporary exhibits that are used to showcase the work of the various artists who have all been involved with Campari in some way. Last year, Campari launched a limited-edition art label created by Brazilian-born artist, Romero Britto. The label is an adaptation of a famous image by Britto called ‘New Day’, featuring a bright red heart, designed to symbolise “the pulsating heart of the brand and its connection to Campari lovers everywhere.” We say cheers to that.