Letters To Jean Michel: The Urban Decay X Basquiat Collection 2017

“Papa, I will be very famous one day.” – Basquiat.

I am bursting with joy about the newest collection from Urban Decay Cosmetics not only because I am addicted to eyeshadow and Urban Decay is one of my favorite makeup brands, but because I have been a devoted fan of the work of the artist Jean-Michel Basquiat since I was a teen. He was one of the most influential American artists of the 1980s and is still making an impact in the art world to this day, a self-taught artist with groundbreaking vision and insight never before seen. The newest collection from Urban Decay Cosmetics features a range of bold jewel tones and deep earthy neutrals that evoke the innovative and limitless creative of Basquiat himself. It also mirrors the artist’s edgy and magical use of color.



Jean-Michel Basquiat was born on December 22nd, 1960 in Brooklyn, New York to a Haitian father and a Puerto Rican mother. As a child he was trilingual in Spanish, French, and English by the age of eleven. His mother, Matilde, always nurtured his natural talent and passion for art. In 1968, at the age of six Basquiat was hit by a car which resulted in him having his spleen removed and a broken arm. While he was in the hospital, his mother gave him a copy of Gray’s Anatomy to read while he was recovering. You can see the influence of this in his unique imagery of skeletons, the human form, and words laid over images. In 1981 he named his avant-garde industrial band Gray, inspired by this great historical work he discovered as a child. His art was a unique urban blend of his Afro-Latinx heritage, the energy of New York in the late 70s and early 80s, and his tumultuous adolescence.

In 1977, Basquiat quit high school a year before he was slated to graduate. The first artistic endeavor he gained exposure for was his graffiti art. In 1972, he and his artist friend, Al Diaz, started spray-painting buildings in Lower Manhattan under the name “SAMO”, an acronym for “Same Old Sh*t”. With its radical message expressed in a colorful urban format, SAMO received media attention from major publications such as, the Village Voice.

When Basquiat and Diaz had a falling out and parted ways, Basquiat ended their joint project with the announcement “SAMO IS DEAD” appearing on the facade of some SoHo art galleries and buildings in downtown Manhattan! The contemporary street artist, Keith Haring, noticed this announcement and staged a mock wake for SAMO at his Club 57. At this point in his life, Basquiat was supporting himself by selling hand-painted postcards and T-shirts, and sweatshirts on the streets of New York.

After three years as a struggling artist, his work was featured in a group show in 1980. Basquiat’s work and brilliant style received outstanding critical acclaim. Basquiat’s work became recognized during an exciting artistic era in New York City. This was the time when the birth of Hip Hop was being witnessed and Andy Warhol’s Paper Factory made its mark. His 1981 painting The Irony of the Negro Policeman were evocative of the messages of the hip-hop groups NWA and Public Enemy.

Basquiat collaborated with Andy Warhol on a major show after being introduced to him by an art dealer named Bruno Bischofberger. And to add to his coolness factor, as if it wasn’t already off the charts, he was friends with David Bowie. Basquiat’s paintings were going for upwards of $50k each as his career skyrocketed.

Basquiat used anything and everything to create, not just a traditional canvas. He used refrigerators, lab coats, shipping crates, and even typewriters as functional canvases. He also he liked to work wearing an Armani suit, and when he finished, he would go out, still dressed in his paint-splattered suit. This image makes me think of Jean-Michel as a walking, breathing canvas himself. He traveled to Abidjan in Ivory Coast, Africa for a show in 1986 and during his visit he was greatly inspired by African art. After that tour, he produced sixty works, and they were exhibited at the Gesellschaft Gallery in Hanover, Germany.

Unfortunately, Basquiat was taken from us too soon. He lost his battle with drug addiction and died on August 12, 1988 of an overdose. He was only 27 years old. He is buried at the Greenwood Cemetery in his native Brooklyn, New York.

In May 2017, twenty-nine years after his death Basquiat continues to be a force of nature in the art world, with the record setting earth shattering sale of his work at Sotheby’s. This month Basquiat’s painting, “Untitled”, which Basquiat completed at the age of twenty-one, was purchased by Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa, founder of the Contemporary Art Foundation. The painting was purchased for $110.5 million at Sotheby’s. Only ten other paintings have broken the $100 million mark. The cost of a Jean-Michel Basquiat painting is now in the same category of cost as a painting by Pablo Picasso. I’ll just leave that right there…

Basquiat continues to makes his mark with this sale at auction. The sale of “Untitled” (a gorgeous blue skull created with acrylic, spray paint and oilstick on canvas) is the most expensive work by an American artist sold at auction, the most expensive work by an African-American artist sold at auction, the most expensive work made since 1980 sold at auction, and the sixth most expensive work ever sold at auction. He is also the youngest artist ever to break the $100 million dollar mark. He beat Picasso’s painting Garçon à la Pipe” (Boy With a Pipe), which Picasso painted at twenty-four and was sold for $104.1 million at Sotheby’s in 2004.

The Basquiat collection created by Urban Decay includes two eyeshadow palettes with eight shades each, a four pan blush palette, three shades of their 24/7 Glide On Eye Pencil, and three new shades of Vice lipstick based on the colors in his works. The packaging for the palettes is a work of art itself,  including a double ended brush and wrapped with canvas all around with Basquiat’s iconic crown symbol and reproductions of his work. When you are finished the palette you can actually hang them like paintings on your wall!!!


Gold Griot




As always and forever, with no doubt Urban Decay’s formula is packed with long wearing pigment and blends beautifully. You have the option of a very versatile neutral palette, Gold Gringot, which has warm golds with some deeper shades that allows you to go from daytime neutral to nighttime expression. Or, if you can explore color and form in the great tradition of Basquiat himself with the bold palette, Tenant. This palette has rich jewel tones that look amazing on all skintones. With these two gems you can create ANY look that you have dreamed of creating. Your makeup is now truly a work of art. If you follow me on Instagram (@sagebeautyblog) you can check out some of the looks I have been creating with these palettes.

This collection is limited edition so I highly recommend you snag some of these pieces while they are still available. I would love to see the looks that you are inspired to create so when you post your Basquiat makeup look tag me on social media!!

With Love and Joy,

Lily Sage

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