Urban Decay Debuts Controversial Capsule Collection Inspired by Basquiat

Urban Decay muse Ruby Rose gets artistic. Image courtesy Urban Decay.
Urban Decay muse Ruby Rose gets artistic. Image courtesy Urban Decay.

If recent auctions are any indication, owning a Basquiat is now the sole province of the One Percent. But one company wants to introduce the artist to a wholly different demographic. The cosmetics brand Urban Decay officially launched the “SERIOUSLY limited-edition collection,” a 12-piece makeup line inspired by the art and life of Jean-Michele Basquiat.

The names of the products comprising the line are meant to recall the artist’s aesthetic—vibrantly hued eye pencils are available in “anatomy,” “vivid,” and “post punk.” The not-so pretty side of the story is the internet-fueled backlash disparaging the L’Oreal-owned brand for not featuring a woman of color as the face of the collaboration. Ruby Rose, who was chosen to be the face of the collection, is a self-proclaimed devotee of Basquiat—she has a tattoo of his iconic crown across her chest, and one of his paintings on her arm. But some angry fans say she is not an authentic representative of the Basquiat’s legacy as an African-American artist.

The "Tenant Eyeshadow Palette" (left), and the "Gold Griot Eyeshadow Palette" (right). Image courtesy Urban Decay.

The “Tenant Eyeshadow Palette” (left), and the “Gold Griot Eyeshadow Palette” (right). Image courtesy Urban Decay.

Of course, this is not the first time Basquiat’s iconic aura has been brought to the masses—collaborations in the past have included mega-brands Supreme, Alice + Olivia, and Reebok. The Urban Decay line was created in collaboration with Artestar creative agency, which represents the artist’s licencing rights. In an interview with The Cut, Artestar President David Stark described his company’s decision to partner with Urban Decay as a means to “keep his profile high and find good, relevant ways of bringing him into the cultural landscape.”  Yet one of Urban Decay’s marketing taglines reads “UD beauty junkies…Addiction has its perks,” a less than ideal message to set against the artist’s life and legacy considering that he died at age 27 from a heroin overdose.

The "1983 Cosmetic Bag" featured in the collaboration. Image courtesy Urban Decay.

The “1983 Cosmetic Bag” featured in the collaboration. Image courtesy Urban Decay.


The “Vault,” containing the entire Basquiat makeup collection for $165, is sold out online. Courtesy Urban Decay and Artestar.



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