That Beyoncé, Jay-Z and Basquiat Ad for Tiffany's Does Have Some Upsides, You Know

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Jay-Z and Beyoncé have been brought together with a 1982 Basquiat painting for the new Tiffany & Co. ad campaign.
Jay-Z and Beyoncé have been brought together with a 1982 Basquiat painting for the new Tiffany & Co. ad campaign. (Tiffany & Co/

Online discourse got a little heated on Sunday and Monday over a new Tiffany & Co. ad campaign featuring Beyoncé, Jay-Z and a long-unseen 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, Beyoncé 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 Beyoncé...

Twitter was upset about a plethora of other things.


The Basquiat cosplaying accusations were rife...

Plus, understandably, art lovers were perturbed that Equals Pi was being revealed in public for the first time as part of an ad campaign.

The fact that the painting was partially obscured did not help matters.

Questions were also raised about whether Basquiat would want his work used in such a way.

And others just questioned whether art, period, should be used to decorate capitalist endeavors.

That's before anyone even got into the moral questions around important art works staying hidden from the world in private collections.

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. Beyoncé is the first Black woman to ever wear the 128.54 carat Tiffany Diamond. Only three other women have ever been permitted to wear it: Mary Whitehouse, Audrey Hepburn and Lady Gaga.

All of which are, quantifiably, very good things.

Would it have been more ideal for people to first see this painting in a way that didn't involve also trying to sell 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 Warhol—the person most responsible for blending high art with commercialism in the first place—it'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. (Beyoncé 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. “We don’t 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.