As it turns out, Tiffany and Co.‘s claims about Jean-Michel Basquiat “Equals Pi” painting featured in its latest campaign featuring Beyoncé and Shawn “Jay-Z” Carter aren’t entirely true. In a press release the painting is described as “part of a private collection from its creation until now, this campaign marks the work-of-art’s first public appearance.”
Painted in 1982 at what’s viewed as the peak of Basquiat’s career, the painting hasn’t been displayed in an exhibit, but it’s been widely available to view by the public. According to Vanity Fair, while it’s unknown who purchased the painting first, it was put up for auction by Sotheby’s in 1990. It failed to find a buyer but was later sold in 1996 for approximately $253,000.
The article goes on to state, “Whether through that sale or another transaction, the painting came into the possession of Alberto and Stefania Sabbadini, the founders of the Sabbadini jewelry empire, based out of Milan.”
Their ownership in fact was documented in a 2018 W editorial showcasing the Sabbadini home with one of the images prominently featuring the now famed painting. As well, even prior to the article, the painting was shown through online sites tracking works of art.
As to the label vice president Alexandre Arnault‘s claim that the Basquiat’s “color is so specific that it has to be some kind of homage” to Tiffany,” Vanity Fair also noted that the artist, who died of a heroin overdoes six years after he painted “Equals Pi,” wasn’t documented as crossing paths with Tiffany until 1985 when he traveled with Tony Chow of Mr. Chow to Hong Kong to attend a Tiffany-hosted dinner. Commenting on the event, Chow stated, “I don’t think [Basquiat] liked my host very much. He was very rebellious, and so ordered the most expensive wine, you know, it was outrageous, this bottle of wine!”
The article also notes that LVMH CEO Bernard Arnault has stated he owns more than 12 of Basquiat’s paintings, installed in his homes in Paris and France, and sometimes loaned to exhibits at his Louis Vuitton Foundation building, a museum and cultural center in Paris.