Beyoncé and Jay-Z, New York City’s most powerful couple, have sparked outrage online after appearing in a new Tiffany & Co. ad campaign featuring a never-before-seen painting by late New York artist Jean-Michel Basquiat. Many critics wonder how anti-capitalist Basquiat would react to his work being featured in a jewelry advertisement.
“Love is the diamond that the jewelry and art adorn,” the hip-hop lovers said of the controversial new ad, titled “About Love,” which will be released worldwide on September 2. It is expected to be displayed on all digital billboards in Times Square.
The Carters were chosen because their 13-year relationship epitomized the modern love story that is so important to the brand, according to the company.
Beyoncé, 39, wears a chic black dress and mesh evening gloves in the swanky photos, which were shot in Los Angeles’ iconic Orum House and are a clear homage to Audrey Hepburn’s character in the 1961 rom-com “Breakfast At Tiffany’s.” A massive $30 million Tiffany yellow diamond necklace encircles the 39-year-old singer’s neck — a stone that Hepburn famously wore while promoting the film.
Beyoncé’s other half, 51, wears a suit with Jean Schlumberger’s iconic Bird on a Rock brooch, which has been repurposed as a set of stylish cuff links.
The gem-encrusted promo, on the other hand, takes a seemingly paradoxical turn by including a painting by Jean-Michel Basquiat, a Neoexpressionist from the 1980s known for his graffiti-inspired paintings that focused on America’s class divides.
The artwork, titled “Equals Pi,” was originally part of the Brooklyn-born artist’s private collection before being purchased by Tiffany and Co. in the 1980s and not made public until now, according to Yahoo Life.
The painting was included because art has been a “common thread throughout” the couple’s “love story” and the main Tiffany & Co. ad campaign, according to People.
The cameo on the painting was thought to be appropriate by the Louis Vuitton subsidiary, as it was done in their signature robin eggshell blue.
Tiffany’s executive vice president of products and communications, Alexandre Arnault, told Yahoo Life, “We don’t have any literature that says he [Basquiat] made the painting for Tiffany.” The diamond boss, on the other hand, speculated that “the [blue painting] is not by chance.”
He insisted, “The color is so specific that it has to be some kind of homage.”
The artwork’s main appearance, on the other hand, caused a stir on 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.”
Some even chastised Jay-Z, a known Basquiat collector and fan, for wearing the late painter’s iconic lop-sided pigtails in the commercial.
“He wanna be basquiat so bad,” wrote one critic, while another Tweeted, “Jay Z cosplaying as Basquiat is hilarious to me.”
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?”