That Beyoncé, Jay-Z and Basquiat Ad for Tiffany’s Does Have Some Upsides, You Know
Online discourse got a little heated on Sunday and Monday over a new Tiffany & Co. ad campaign featuring BeyoncÃ©, Jay-Z and a never-before seen Jean-Michel Basquiat painting titled Equals Pi. The “About Love” campaign will last an entire year, hit print publications on Sept. 2, and, at some stage, will take over every digital billboard in Times Square.
In the first released image, BeyoncÃ© stands in a sleek gown, presenting a modern take on Audrey Hepburn’s iconic outfit from the opening scene of Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Behind her hangs the 1982 Basquiat masterpiece, which has been in a private collection, hidden from the world, for close to 40 years. At her side, Jay-Z reclines in an arm chair, with his locs arranged to mimic Basquiat’s signature hairstyle.
And while no one had anything bad to say about BeyoncÃ©…
Here you can see an unseen before Basquiat painting and a work of art standing in front of it pic.twitter.com/qYH9zSbhqT
— Samâ· (@BTSOriented) August 23, 2021
Twitter was upset about a plethora of other things.
Jay Z cosplaying as Basquiat is hilarious to me pic.twitter.com/JBRQ3hzUB8
— GARAGE SILLY (@yungseafx) August 23, 2021
The Basquiat cosplaying accusations were rife…
Jay cosplaying as Basquiat is really getting on my nerves.
— Aht Aht (@MsLaFitteTweets) August 23, 2021
Plus, understandably, art lovers were perturbed that Equals Pi was being revealed in public for the first time as part of an ad campaign.
they been hiding a basquiat for decades just to use it for a Tiffanyâs ad? https://t.co/LH0XiXbEu9
— phinneas flynn (@ScBayScJohnson) August 23, 2021
The fact that the painting was partially obscured did not help matters.
Ngl man, I really want them out of the shot, because that painting looks like one of Basquiat's sickest https://t.co/D9FQj1rz9V
— Youtubian Beta Male (@Demboslice_) August 23, 2021
Questions were also raised about whether Basquiat would want his work used in such a way.
ah yes basquiat, famous champion of consumerism. iâm sure heâd love this https://t.co/cGXhP2zg81
— The Correct Opinion Haver (@notoriouskpg_) August 23, 2021
And others just questioned whether art, period, should be used to decorate capitalist endeavors.
Using never-before-seen Basquiat to sell jewels is the most anti-Art thing Iâve ever seen https://t.co/i2c1EJWBqS
— battery taster extreme (@spoonspoon_) August 23, 2021
That’s before anyone even got into the moral questions around important art works staying hidden from the world in private collections.
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 https://t.co/GVb3lRSkAE
— (@__lukec) August 23, 2021
In the online kerfuffle, three significant aspects of the ad campaign have been largely skipped over. Those being:
1. Tiffany & Co’s (undoubtedly gargantuan, but currently unknown) payment to Bey and Jay for the campaign also involves a $2 million donation for scholarship and internship programs at HBCUs.
2. Tiffany’s has purchased Equals Pi and plans to display it in their flagship Fifth Avenue store in New York once it has completed renovations. Which means the world will finally be able to see it, and in a place that doesn’t charge an entrance fee.
3. BeyoncÃ© is the first Black woman to ever wear the 128.54 carat Tiffany Diamond. Only four other women have ever been permitted to wear it: Mary Whitehouse, Audrey Hepburn, Lady Gaga and Gal Godot.
All of which are, quantifiably, very good things.
Would it have been more ideal to first see this painting in a way that didn’t involve also trying to sell us jewelry? Of course. Should Jay-Z think about getting his own hairdo? Maybe. Does it feel weird to see Basquiat’s work being used in this way? That’s up to you, but given that one of his closest collaborators in life was Andy Warholâthe person most responsible for blending high art with commercialism in the first placeâit’s hard to imagine he’d mind very much. Are we all going to be sick to death of this ad campaign in six months’ time? Oh, you betcha. (BeyoncÃ© is even going to sing “Moon River” to Jay-Z at some point, so … that’s happening.)
Truthfully, if anything in this whole campaign is ripe for mockery, it’s the completely unfounded assertions that Tiffany & Co. have been making about Equals Pi‘s turquoise background. âWe donât have any literature that says [Basquiat] made the painting for Tiffany,” executive vice president of products and communications, Alexandre Arnault, told WWD. “My guess is that the [blue painting] is not by chance. The color is so specific that it has to be some kind of homage.”
If we could get a collective Twitter eyeroll for that, that’d be marvelous.
Copyright 2021 KQED