A history of the art of the emblematic posters of the Montreux Jazz Festival

David Bowie to Camille Walala: a history of the Montreux Jazz Festival posters

Camille Walala is the last artist to have received carte blanche on the iconic poster of the Montreux Jazz Festival. As the 56th edition approaches (July 1 to 16, 2022), a look back at the most memorable creations since 1967, including those by David Bowie, Andy Warhol, Keith Haring, Sylvie Fleury and Julien Opie

The worlds of jazz music and the visual arts have long been linked. From Mondrian to Matisse, from Pollock to Basquiat, many artists have been enchanted by this mixture of rhythm, improvisation and energy.

Since 1967 – when Miles Davis, Nina Simone and Ella Fitzgerald ruled the airwaves – the Montreux Jazz Festival has merged these worlds, giving visual artists carte blanche to create its official poster.

A history of the Montreux Jazz Festival posters

The early years saw 20th century art icons leave their mark (even if it was a particularly masculine lineup). Among them were Milton Glaser, Shigeo Fukuda and Max Bill. Keith Haring produced a trio of posters in 1983 and another in collaboration with Andy Warhol three years later. In 1995 David Bowie stepped in. More recently – as the festival has expanded its musical remit to include artists like Muse, Radiohead, Kendrick Lamar, Pharrell Williams, Ed Sheeran, Alicia Keys, Adele, Lady Gaga – it has hosted contemporary art revivals of John Armleder, Julian Opie, Sylvie Fleury, Christian Marclay and JR.

1983 Montreux Jazz Festival posters by Keith Haring (yellow, pink, green)

Although the Lake Geneva event was canceled for the first time in 2020, the festival hasn’t let something like the coronavirus get in the way of its creative zest. Instead, organizers commissioned artists to create original artwork in response to the appropriate theme of “Silent Shores.” Among them, illustrator Malika Favre, artist and Gucci collaborator Ignasi Monreal, and graphic designer Yoann Lemoine, also a singer-songwriter under the pseudonym Woodkid. The Montreux Jazz Festival posters are available for purchase in the form of editions on the festival’s website.

For the 56th edition of the festival – which will take place from July 1-16, 2022 and will include performances by Lionel Richie – the responsibility of capturing the dynamism of the festival in visual form falls to French artist Camille Walala. Occupying a space between constructivism, pop art, and Memphis, Walala is well known for her explosive graphic work that includes full-facade murals, 3D installations, interiors, stage designs, and brand collaborations. For his digitally created poster, Walala opted for textured confetti-like patterns that meet with brightly colored geometric shapes and black and white stripes, the latter referencing piano keys.

“For the festival poster, I wanted to convey movement and rhythm with dancing shapes and a wide variety of colors,” says Walala. “I have several notebooks filled with various designs and patterns that form the basis of my visual vocabulary. Like a piece of music, I use these different contrasting elements to find a balance, a harmony. §

Christopher S. Washington