Beyonce & Jay-Z faced a lot of backlash for their Tiffany ad in the past weeks and now the criticism gets DEEPER as Basquiat collaborators are now DISTANCING themselves for the MEGA-WATT couple as well!
According to a recent report from the Daily Beast, several close friends and collaborators of the late artist Jean-Michel Basquiat, who died in 1988, have spoken out against the campaign.
“I’d seen the ad a couple days ago and I was horrified,” said Alexis Adler, who reportedly lived with Basquiat from 1979 to 1980. “The commercialization and commodification of Jean and his art at this point—it’s really not what Jean was about.” She added that if Basquiat were alive today, he would’ve wanted his paintings readily available for the public to see at museums.
“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. Why show it as a prop to an ad?” said Adler. “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.”
On a Facebook post Stephen Torton, Basquiat’s former assistant, co-signed what Adler said, stating, “this very perverse appropriation of the artist’s inspiration is too much.”
He said in part: “I was Jean-Michel Basquiat’s assistant. 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. But this very perverse appropriation of the artist’s inspiration is too much.
« They » tortured his legacy with condescending bullshit in The LV show in Paris.”
For Torton, the public interrogations surrounding the color are a calculated move by Tiffany & Co. to heighten interest. “They know damn well where to find answers to the questions,” Torton exclaims to The Daily Beast. “When they write books about his influences: [the 20th century Austrian expressionist] Egon Schiele, or African art, or his interest in voodoo, they call me up asking: ‘Was he aware of this? Was he interested in that?’ They know where to find the answers to the questions. They’re not interested in the truth, it’s not like they made a mistake.”
Torton and Basquiat’s contemporaries believe the questions alone fuel interest, not the reality. But without the truth, it’s hard to imagine that Tiffany & Co. have much respect for his art or life. “They wouldn’t have let Jean-Michel into a Tiffany’s if he wanted to use the bathroom, or, if he went to buy an engagement ring and pulled a wad of cash out of his pocket. We couldn’t even get a cab,” Torton says.
Curators within the art world are also adamant that the blue had no connection to Tiffany’s in its original conception. Speaking on the condition of anonymity, one longtime curator of Basquiat’s paintings offers, “Let’s say he did reference that color on purpose—which seems out of character for him to do something that simple—I think it really flattens his artistic approach. He was a really deep thinker. His work wasn’t like, this symbolizes this. Everything references something but then it tells a story of that thing. But let’s say he did though… to use it in an ad, it wouldn’t have been the context. It wouldn’t be used to sell Tiffany’s but to say something critical, maybe about blood diamond-extraction or something. I just think it’s a reach.”
In trying to determine what exactly the blue could be referencing, it’s also important to note just how often Basquiat used that shade in other works. Chaédria LaBouvier, one of the foremost Basquiat curators in the world whose recent Defacement exhibition at the Guggenheim Museum was widely considered a seminal showcase of the artist’s most urgent work and political themes, writes via email: “Photography, age and protective glass covering can change how the color looks to the eye, especially for Basquiat’s works, because many of the early works are not primed and a lot of his works are not glazed, or with a glass covering. The robin’s egg blue in Equals Pi and colors very similar to it show up in few other works, particularly in his early period from about 1980-1983, in which Equals Pi was also created. You can see the picture peeking through In Italian, it makes an appearance in Untitled (History of the Black People) and Six Crimee, and seems like a monochromatic meditation in acrylic and oil stick.”
As much as Tiffany’s would like to take credit for the blue used here—which wasn’t trademarked until 1998, long after Basquiat’s passing—it doesn’t bear any actual weight, according to his friends and experts. What the ad and other commercialization efforts do is, perhaps, shroud Basquiat’s work in a mystique that belies the artist’s desires. There is little doubt that he didn’t want his art explained, given his famous saying: “It’s like asking Miles, ‘How does your horn sound?’” But as Torton tells us, “I don’t know the truth but I know a lie when I see one.”[SOURCE]