Jay-Z and Beyoncé Have Basquiat at Tiffany’s

How do you reinvent a brand as saturated with iconography as Tiffany & Co.? The jewelry company already has a signature color (blue, and trademarked as of 1998), movie (Breakfast at Tiffany’s), and song (“Moon River”—not to mention the alt-rock hit “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” by Deep Blue Something). Any attempt at revamping would be tantamount to a coup.

But that task falls nonetheless to Alexandre Arnault, the 29-year-old son of the LVMH tycoon Bernard Arnault, who decamped from (the LVMH-owned) Rimowa earlier this year to become the executive vice president of product and communications at Tiffany’s shortly after LVMH acquired the American jewelry brand. On Monday morning, he revealed his Super Bowl-worthy playbook: Beyoncé and Jay-Z, a Tiffany-toned Basquiat, and a 128-carat diamond. In photographs and video, the couple, who have never before appeared in an ad together, perch before Equals Pi by Jay’s favorite artist, Jean-Michel Basquiat, a canvas whose primary color (as luck would have it!) is the brand’s signature robin’s egg blue. The couple wear several of the jewelry brand’s most renowned pieces, including the 128-carat Tiffany Diamond that Audrey Hepburn wore in Breakfast at Tiffany’s. In a forthcoming short film to be released September 15, Beyoncé sings “Moon River,” the ditty sung by Hepburn in Tiffany’s—and in one image, she poses in a backless Balmain dress a la Hepburn.

It’s a champagne, rose petals, Louboutins-kicked-off view of romance. The campaign is not just about love; it is called “ABOUT LOVE.” Tiffany’s, in other words, is now synonymous with that greatest of all human emotions and experiences. Though wasn’t it always, as the luxury go-to for American engagement rings? All this is to say, when it comes to reinventing Tiffany’s, perhaps the secret is: don’t reinvent it at all.

But this isn’t simply a doubling down on the familiar tropes of Tiffany romance. By employing the most famous couple in the world, and securing a painting by the most famous, or at least coolest, contemporary painter, Arnault is bidding to make Tiffany blue as lusted-after as Hermès orange—a global symbol of exclusivity and desire (and the rare French crown jewel not in the LVMH umbrella).

And he has spared no expense to do it—this is perhaps the only luxury campaign in history to include the purchase of a Basquiat in its budget (plus a $2 million donation to Historically Black Colleges and Universities for scholarships and internships). On Twitter, a number of users opined that using a painting to promote a jewelry brand was unsavory—one called it “Basquiat blasphemy,” and others seemed to think the couple had been “hiding” the Basquiat in order to reveal it in the campaign. In reality, the company acquired the painting earlier this year, Arnault told WWD; previously, he said, it had been in the collection of a private owner since the early 1980s. (A quick google reveals that it belonged to the Sabbadinis, a Milan-based family that makes jewelry; it was photographed over their sofa in a 2018 W Magazine story. The Sabbadinis did not respond to multiple requests for comment.)

This sweeping declaration ABOUT LOVE is in fact the result of much backstage dealmaking. Arnault told WWD he courted Jay-Z and Beyonce for the campaign at the beginning of this year. It doesn’t seem a coincidence, then, that LVMH took a 50% stake in the rapper’s champagne brand, Armand de Brignac, in a February deal that Jay Z said started with conversations with Arnault. (The rapper has a habit of lucrative back scratching: after palling around in the Hamptons last summer with Jack Dorsey, the Twitter founder bought out Jay’s streaming service Tidal for $350 million in March.)