Creativity is usually associated with artists, architects and designers but the truth is that it is something that everyone can tap into. This is the tenet of premium gin brand Bombay Sapphire’s mission to “Stir Creativity”, a clarion call for promoting self-expression and unlocking people’s creative potential. And what better way to do so than by combining art with the art of mixology—an expertly crafted cocktail can be as stimulating as a visceral painting after all—which is exactly the concept behind ‘CANVAS’, Bombay Sapphire’s pop-up bar-cum-atelier.
Launched in London last summer, the ‘CANVAS’ concept has been popping up in Paris, Milan, Berlin and other cities around the world ever since, with the latest destination being Athens, Greece. Organized by Bombay Sapphire under the artistic direction of Yatzer, the exclusive event took place in late January in a former industrial space which had been transformed into an exuberantly festive atelier where three emerging Greek artists were invited to create in-situ artworks inspired by Bombay Sapphire’s zestful personality, while guests had the chance to fire up their creativity by tapping into their inner artist.
Upon arrival, guests were invited to make their own artistic mark by hand or paint brush on a long stretch of wall using a variety of colours at their disposal. Tapping into our primal, untamed creative urges, this introductory, hands-on activity was both symbolic and fun, setting the tone for the entire evening and encouraging guests to shed their inhibitions and embrace their creativity.
More creative opportunities awaited in the main hall, a dazzling space, colour-washed in cyan and magenta lighting, and drowning in a shimmering maelstrom of twinkling lights. Part night club, part gallery, the space was abuzz with artists and bartenders, the former putting the finishing touches on the artworks they had created especially for the event, and the latter mixing the event’s two gin-based signature cocktails: “Leave your trace”, an aromatic, elderflower-flavored mixture concocted especially for this evening by mixologist Antonis Mantzaridis as a tribute to the aforementioned collective artwork, and “White Canvas”, a full-bodied, frothy delight that offered an unexpected call to action.
As its name suggests, “White Canvas” gave guests a unique opportunity to unleash their creativity by taking advantage of a wide selection of edible paints, glitter toppings and stencil designs at the adjacent Cocktail Finishing Studio in order to imaginatively decorate their cocktails just like a blank canvas. And as any work of art worthy of the creativity that went into its making, guests could then photograph their customized cocktail at an Insragrammable setting of exotic allure, courtesy of a miniature photo-booth. For those seeking original pleasures, the bar was also offering G&Ts but even here an opportunity to stir creativity couldn’t be passed as guests could customize their drinks with different tonics and garnishes.
Meanwhile, at the event’s pop-up photo studio, Greek photographer Ioanna Tzetzoumi was encouraging guests to loosen up in order to capture a more spontaneous side of their character. Inspired by the edible blue paint that Bombay Sapphire launched as a means to add colour and flavor to your G&T, the black and white photographs that Tzetzoumi took were brandished with a blue brushstroke before sending them to each guest as a memento of this very special evening.
In contrast to the guests’ whimsical portraits, Queen Victoria’s towering portrait by Greek graffiti artist and painter Spent1 cast a more austere aura. Inspired by the Queen’s appearance on Bombay Sapphire’s label, a reference to gin’s popularity in India during the British Raj, Spent1 painted his own version of the iconic monarch by transforming the label’s discrete monochrome figure into a three-metre high portrait of bold, eye-catching graphics.
Sharing a similar palette of icy blues and red accents, lettering artist and graphic designer Lune82’s wide canvas spelling “DREAM RIDER” also beckoned from afar. Lune82 combines his graffiti skills with his passion for typography and ‘style writing’ to create expansive paintings and murals featuring imaginative, retro-futuristic, abstracted logos, just like the one on display, which drew from a wide range of visual arts, from constructivism to optical and pop art.
Just as graphical was the work of street artist Dimitris Dokos who combines dense graphics with symbolic iconography to produce mesmerizing paintings and murals of zany detailing. For the event, Dokos exhibited three unique artworks from his archive, two of which feature his trademark beetle which adorns many abandoned buildings throughout Athens. For his fourth canvas which stood out in its lush yellow background, Dokos appropriated Bombay Sapphire’s CANVAS brand hexagonal pattern, filling it with enigmatic inscriptions that somehow managed to bring to mind both Egyptian hieroglyphics and Keith Haring.
In the event that anyone felt the urge to draw or paint as they watched the three artists at work, a table full of art supplies, complete with pencils, markers, oil paints and watercolours, gave guests the opportunity to express themselves, which they could also do, albeit less artistically but as spontaneously, courtesy of a trove of firecrackers, bubble dispensers and other party paraphernalia. Combined with the unique Bombay Sapphire cocktails, the heady music by dj ClubKid and the popcorn stand, it’s fair to say that creativity was indeed stirred, booties were shaken, in a night that was definitely stamped in our memory.