This is a real Basquiat case.
New York City’s pre-eminent power couple, Beyoncé and Jay-Z, are facing backlash online after appearing in a new Tiffany & Co. advertising campaign that features a never-before-seen painting by late NY artist Jean-Michel Basquiat. Many critics are wondering how the ostensibly anti-capitalist Basquiat would feel about having his work featured in a jewelry ad.
“Love is the diamond that the jewelry and art decorate,” the hip-hop paramours told People magazine of the controversial new advertisement, entitled “About Love,” which debuts globally on Sept. 2. It will reportedly appear across all digital billboards in Times Square.
The company said it chose to feature the Carters as their 13-year power relationship epitomized the modern love story so essential to the brand.
The swanky images, shot in Los Angeles’ iconic Orum House, show Beyoncé, 39, rocking a chic black dress and mesh evening gloves — a clear homage to Audrey Hepburn’s character in 1961 rom-com “Breakfast At Tiffany’s.” Encircling the 39-year-old singer’s neck is a massive, $30 million Tiffany yellow diamond necklace — a stone that Hepburn had famously worn while promoting the film.
Not to be outdone, Beyoncé’s other half, 51, sports a suit with Jean Schlumberger’s legendary Bird on a Rock brooch, here repurposed as a set of stylish cuff links.
However, the gem-encrusted promo takes a seemingly paradoxical turn by featuring a painting by Jean-Michel Basquiat, a 1980s Neoexpressionist known for his graffiti-inspired paintings that focused on class dichotomies in America.
The artwork, entitled “Equals Pi,” was originally part of the Brooklyn-born artist’s private collection but was bought in the 1980s by Tiffany and Co., which didn’t unveil it to the public until now, Yahoo Life reported.
According to People, Tiffany and Co. included the painting because art has been a “common thread throughout” the couple’s “love story” and the main Tiffany & Co. ad campaign.
The Louis Vuitton subsidiary thought the painting’s cameo was fitting, as it came in their signature robin eggshell blue.
“We don’t have any literature that says he [Basquiat] made the painting for Tiffany,” Alexandre Arnault, Tiffany’s executive vice president of products and communications, told Yahoo Life. However, the diamond boss surmised “that the [blue painting] is not by chance.
“The color is so specific that it has to be some kind of homage,” he insisted.
However, the artwork’s flagship appearance divided social media.
“Basquiat wasn’t the type of person or artist to approve of his pieces being used in an ad from multiple billionaires (uncontextualized, at that),” scoffed one detractor on Twitter. “His art was all about pain & beauty in low places, so, it comes across as a tone deaf & flippant flex on his legacy.”
“The fact that they showed off this never-before-seen piece of art from Jean-Michel Basquiat for an ADVERTISEMENT doesn’t sit well with my spirits…,” lamented another.
One incensed Tweeter accused Tiffany’s of hoarding the painting, writing, “Insane to me that rich people can just buy art from artists who have passed and no one else gets to see it, kinda gross imo like these pieces should be able to be seen by everyone, thats literally what basquiat woulda wanted.”
A few even ripped Jay-Z, a noted Basquiat fan and collector, for rocking the dead painter’s iconic lop-sided pigtails in the advert.
However, many hip-hop stalwarts flocked to the Carters’ defense, with one fuming, “Now everyone is suddenly a Basquiat enthusiast? ‘He wouldn’t want this’ did he tell you this via oujia board?”
Others argued that, despite his proletarian-seeming paintings, Basquiat was a big fan of luxury goods.
“We know a little bit about Basquiat,” said Arnault. “We know his family. We did an exhibition of his work at the Louis Vuitton Foundation a few years back. We know he loved New York, and that he loved luxury and he loved jewelry.”
As part of a partnership with the Carters, Tiffany and Co. has pledged to donate $2 million to scholarship and internship programs for historically black colleges and universities.