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What’s the story behind that blue Basquiat painting featured in Beyonce and Jay Z’s new Tiffany & Co campaign?

This is the first time the painting has been featured in an ad campaign.

By House & Garden South Africa | August 24, 2021 | Category

Image: Tiffany & Co/Instagram
Image: Tiffany & Co/Instagram

If you’ve been browsing the web over the last 24 hours, you’ve most likely come across The Carters - AKA Beyonce and Jay Z - starring in a new ad campaign for jewellery company Tiffany & Co.

The campaign, titled About Love, has gone viral for a number of reasons: A) It stars one of the world’s most influential power couples. B) It features an iconic 128-carat Tiffany yellow diamond worn by Beyonce, who is the first black woman, and only the fourth person ever to wear the jewel, and C) a never-before-seen painting by late NY artist Jean-Michel Basquiat also makes an appearance.

Basquiat was a 1980s Neo-expressionist known for his graffiti-inspired paintings that focused on class dichotomies in America. This has left many people wondering how the anti-capitalist Basquiat would feel about having his work featured in the ad.

The painting in question however, is called “Equals Pi”, and initially formed part of the artist’s private collection. It dates back to 1982, arguably regarded as Basquiat’s most coveted year, and was recently acquired by the jewellery company, according to reports.

The canvas features a number Basquiat’s most characteristic motifs, including a skull and crown - but what really makes it stand out is the specific shade of egg blue that matches the colour made famous by Tiffany’s almost exactly.

@blkgrlculture/Twitter

Although there’s no evidence that the artist created the painting with the jewellery company in mind, Alexandre Arnault, Tiffany executive vice president of products and communications, believes that there could be some connections.

"We know he loved New York, and that he loved luxury and he loved jewellery,” he said to WWD. “The color is so specific that it has to be some kind of homage."

Although the painting was largely unseen to the broader public, it isn’t entirely unknown. According to reports, the painting was offered at Sotheby's in London in June 1990, just two years after the artist’s death at age 27. It was put up for an estimate of about $300 000 to $420 000 dollars but failed to sell at the time.

Six years later, the painting came to auction again, for a significantly lower estimate of $170,000 to $235,500. It eventually sold for $253 000.

Prior to the artwork’s appearance in the campaign, it was previously seen sitting in the living room of the Sabbadini family in a W magazine spread. The Sabbadini’s are another famous jewellery family who own an impressive collection of artwork, including pieces by Damien Hirst, Victor Brauner, and more.

Equals pi will eventually be displayed in Tiffany’s flagship boutique store on Fifth Avenue, which is currently undergoing renovation.

For now, we’ll just admire it alongside Beyonce and Jay Z, and the multi-million dollar diamond.