By Angelica Villa,
Tiffany & Co. has launched a new campaign about modern love featuring Beyoncé and Jay-Z with a Basquiat painting as a backdrop. Titled Equals Pi (1982), the long-unseen turquoise painting is meant to recall the luxury retailer’s signature shade of blue.
Before appearing in the new Tiffany campaign, the painting—which features the artist’s recognizable skulls and scrawled text with phrases such as such as “AMORITE”, “TEN YEN” and “DUNCE”—had been owned by two other jewelry moguls: Italian designers Alberto and Stefania Sabbadini. It had been spotted inside their Milan apartment, alongside other works by Andy Warhol, George Condo, Anselm Kiefer, Damien Hirst, Cindy Sherman, and René Magritte.
The family purchased it in 1996 during a Sotheby’s London auction for nearly $253,000. According to a report by WWD, the Sabbadinis recently sold it privately to the luxury jewelry brand for an unknown sum.
“It’s really incredible that Tiffany found the only painting that had a reference to Tiffany,” says Basquiat collector Larry Warsh who is familiar with painting from previous museum exhibitions. “It’s an amazing collaboration and a really important work from that series.”
In the Tiffany ad, Beyoncé wears an all-black diamond-studded Balmain look that is inspired by Audrey Hepburn’s dress in the 1961 film Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Jay-Z, meanwhile, dons clothes intended to mimic Basquiat’s outfit when he appeared on the cover of New York Magazine in 1985.
The Carters’ affection for Basquiat has been well-documented. The Brooklyn-born rapper purchased the Basquiat painting Mecca (1982) in 2013 at Sotheby’s for $4.2 million. That work depicts a New York landscape with the word “Empire” scrawled across the top underneath the artist’s signature crown.
The advertisement is part of a larger Tiffany’s campaign exploring modern love. For the project, Beyoncé and Jay-Z collaborated with Emmanuel Adjei, a director who worked on Beyoncé’s visual album Black Is King, to produce a short film.
“As a brand that had always stood for love, strength and self-expression, we could not think of a more iconic couple that better represents Tiffany’s values,” said Alexandre Arnault, executive vice president of product and communications, in a statement.
At the start of the year, the brand was acquired by the luxury conglomerate LVMH, which restructured its management and creative teams to revamp the historic jewelry house.
The campaign is set to officially launch on September 2, followed by an accompanying print edition and film produced for the project. Visuals and additional media made for the campaign will be released throughout the year. As part of the collaboration with the Carters, Tiffany & Co. has pledged to give $2 million dollars to fund scholarship and internship programs for Historically Black Colleges and Universities.