The painting, called Equals Pi, has people talking.
Jay-Z and Beyoncé starred in a Tiffany & Co. ad this summer that has been stirring up some controversy. The ad features a painting by Basquiat called “Equals Pi.” The piece has not been seen for years before Tiffany’s rolled it out for their commercial. The idea of Jay-Z and Beyoncé with a rare Basquiat seemed like a great idea, however, some of the artist’s old friends and colleagues aren’t thrilled with the ad.
“I’d seen the ad a couple days ago and I was horrified,” Alexis Adler told The Daily Beast. Adler lived with Basquiat from 1979-1980, and claims that “the commercialization and commodification of Jean and his art at this point—it’s really not what Jean was about.”
“Unfortunately, the museums came to Jean’s art late, so most of his art is in private hands and people don’t get to see that art except for the shows,” continued Adler. Why show it as a prop to an ad? Loan it out to a museum. In a time where there were very few Black artists represented in Western museums, that was his goal: to get to a museum.”
Stephen Torton, who mixed paints and assisted Basquiat, also had a bit to say via Instagram. “I was Jean Michel Basquiat’s assistant ,” he wrote. “I designed and built stretchers, painted backgrounds, glued drawings down on canvas, chauffeured, travelled extensively, spoke freely about many topics and worked endless hours side by side in silence . The idea that this blue background , which I mixed and applied was in any way related to Tiffany Blue is so absurd that at first I chose not to comment .”
Equals Pi was sold by the Sabbadini family to Tiffany’s. The brand was allegedly interested in the piece because of the matching Robin Egg Blue shade that the company also uses. How do you feel about Jay and Bey posing with the piece in the ad?