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Source: Mason Poole / Tiffany & Co.

When Beyoncé and Jay-Z made their official debut as ambassadors for the iconic luxury brand Tiffany & Co., the ad campaign that featured a previously unseen painting by the late Jean Michel Basquiat caused an uproar. The backlash is continuing against the company, this time with the painting at the center of the contention.

The rare painting, titled Equals Pi, is owned by Tiffany’s and is now on permanent display in their flagship store on Fifth Avenue in New York City. The company’s rationale for featuring the painting with its distinct blue hue was explained by executive vice president of product and communications Alexandre Arnault: “As you can see, there is zero Tiffany blue in the campaign other than the painting. It’s a way to modernize Tiffany blue.” This justification by Tiffany’s has a slew of art experts aghast—including many of Basquiat’s friends and collaborators.

Stephen Torton, who was a trusted friend and assistant to the late artist for many years scoffs at the idea that Basquiat even considered Tiffany’s when creating any of his paintings. Torton published an Instagram post shortly after the ad campaign’s release, stating that “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.”

Al Diaz, another close friend of Basquiat, also feels that there’s deliberate misinterpretation being put forth by Tiffany’s with the ad campaign. “People think that his association with luxury was because he was impressed with that shit, but he couldn’t care less,” he said in an interview with The Daily Beast. In that same interview, Torton agrees, saying “They’re not interested in the truth, it’s not like they made a mistake.”

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