Urban Decay x Jean-Michel Basquiat Eyeshadow Palettes // Review and Swatches


Basquiat is an artist that I have repeatedly studied through my education. An artist of Caribbean descent, his works often feature representations of black people, intertwined with popular culture references and also imagery of anatomy. There are references to comics, athletes and musicians within his paintings, and often the way he represents people connotes or evokes the human skeleton. His works were often a commentary and response to the representation, or lack of, black people in popular culture in the 60's and 70's. He started in the underground art world in NYC from this era, and eventually found notoriety with his work which was and still is highly praised.

I was first introduced to his work through GCSE Art. I was actually talking about this with my mum the other day, about how almost inappropriate it was that a group of white, english spotty teenagers were recreating Basquiat depictions of what is undoubtedly people of colour. I wouldn't have any concerns with our recreation and inspiration from his work had we been taught about the reasoning, message and context behind his paintings. I can objectively say that it was inappropriate, but what a missed opportunity to educate people about different races and the oppression and representation of race within all communities of the world. I then stumbled back upon his work during my Art History A Level, citing him as an inspiration for another artist. For this I lightly researched his work, and so found that there was a deeper level of depiction in his paintings, but I still really didn't have a clue. It wasn't until this year, that I decided to base a university project on different artists, and I chose him that I realised he wasn't just a pop art, graffiti artist, but had a profound message and ethos in his work and own artistic personality. I really urge you to research his work, and discover his representation of black people, and how he intentionally intertwined this in with depictions of popular culture and anatomy. Here is a link to his Artsy page, I find this website to be a great resource for artist research (and also makeup inspiration).

I've included this introduction to inform you about the artist and my own introduction to his work. I feel it's important to know about him and his work before delving into this review and collection. This collection faced a backlash as the to representation of his work and there seemed to be three main issues. Temptalia summed them up perfectly, so I thought I'd quote from her page. 

'While Basquiat’s state approached Urban Decay to create the collection, the collection is not without concerns from those who have been drawn in and inspired by Basquiat’s work. Some of the artist’s supporters have expressed concern over the commercialization of the artist’s work (generally) and the lack of a model of color in the collection’s campaign, both said to be inconsistent with some of the themes shown throughout Basquiat’s body of work. A third issue raised is with respect to Urban Decay’s usage of drug-related names (like Junkie, Druggie, Bump, etc.) when Basquiat died of a heroin overdose at 27 years old and how those two can be reconciled. Others who enjoy Basquiat’s work are excited for the collaboration and the acknowledgment of the artist’s influence, along with the possibility of making his work more widely known.' Source - Temptalia, 2017

I think it's important to still know about this controversy, even though it's been a few months since the release and this is a limited edition collection. The feeling and reactions to this collection are very valid and bring up important points about the beauty industry and how we represent all people. I'm not going to go too in depth into this (in truth I had already and it turned into a very long essay, which I thought wasn't any different from other things I've read online), but I do suggest looking and reading up on some articles about how this collection is 'problematic'. I'll point you in the direction of the fabulous Kimberly Clark and her anti haul #14, in which she talks about why she's not going to buy this collection and brings up some other relevant issues. That being said, I always urge people to do their own research, inform their own opinions from any information you can gather because that the best way to know how you personally feel about things. 

Now onto the makeup! I am a massive art history nerd. I can talk about multiple artists until I lose my voice and have done in some of my older posts. When I first saw this collection, I immediately knew I wanted it. But I waited until I bought the two things from the collection that I really really really wanted when I saw they had gone on sale and I knew they would be a lasting precious purchase for me. I'm not going to buy a limited edition eyeliner or lipstick because I'm going to use that up in a year or so, it won't be a special item to me. If you are still interested in this collection, I have seen several online shops with these palettes on sale, so make sure you shop around to get the best deal. 

I have to say, I really do love the packaging, the canvas feel makes this really special. I love the raise quality of the works on the front, and shade names are spot on, (and I have had a giggle listening to how some beauty guru's pronounce pseudonym). I do like that they have included the little cut out on the back so you can hang your palettes up, although I really doubt anyone will, and if you do, you'll probably forget to actually use the palette, but I think it's a nice touch. The crown, a signature in Basquiat's work is featured throughout the packaging which I also like. The brushes included are also really nice quality and actually work really well. The mirror included is also really nice, which I find important because sometimes mirrors in palettes can be quite bad and if you are travelling you're probably using that to do your makeup in. I also like how one palette opens vertically and the other horizontally, mimicking the dimensions of the paintings, I think that's quite interesting. Overall I think the quality of the packaging and the style is really nice and something I can really appreciate. 

Let's see the swatches, as always I have primed my arm, and am first doing a finger swatch, swiped into the product three times, followed by a swatch using a flat shadow brush swiped into the product three times. 

Gold Griot Palette





So this palette is the more wearable palette and features the ever so popular warm shades, with a little bit of a cool twist by including a satin grey, dark navy blue and a very yellow gold. The formula is very nice, the shadows are soft and blendable, there is some kickback when you pick up the shadow but not as much as the other palette (spoilers), and nothing too bad. The glittery shades are very pigmented and pack a punch. The warm mattes are really nice quality and easy to use on the eyes, the cooler tones are however slightly patchy and so require a little bit more work. I do like the gradient of shades, starting with a really nice base shade, into a slightly neutral transition shade and then into the brick brown shade. I think doing this, allows you to see how this is the more wearable option, because it essentially lays out the most obvious look for you. The very obvious bronzy warm looks can be achieved from this palette, so I might not suggest that everyone picks this up. The market right now is saturated with warm toned eyeshadow palettes, and if you have any other palette with similar shades which you undoubtedly do, I wouldn't suggest you pick this up. Simply because, if you have other palettes with warm tones, it's because you love these tones, and so you probably aren't going to use the grey or navy shade, or even the very yellow gold. There's no point picking up this palette just to use half of the shades. I would suggest you get this if you want to make your first higher end palette purchase and you like to experiment slightly with colour but still want it to be wearable, or you know that you can use all of the shades in some way. I know that I love to rock a bit of navy shadow sometimes, so I really appreciate that they have included it in this palette. It's hard to pair with the other shadows in my opinion, they just don't work together and so the palette is sometimes challenging to work with because you only really have two cool toned shades that work together and so you might have to pull from other palettes or shadows. I do appreciate that these are inspired by the colours of the art work, but as a makeup company you also need to bare in mind that people do need to make looks from the product. 

That being said, I do think this is a quality product, I think the shadows are really nice, apart from some patchiness with the cooler shades but they are still workable, I just don't see how the average makeup wearer can use the warm and cool shades together because they just don't mesh, so the palette kinda just doesn't make sense to me. I don't regret buying this palette, but I do think others who don't use makeup quite as weirdly as I do might struggle using this palette.

Tenant Palette





Of the two, this is definitely my favourite and I've used it multiple times for more creative looks. I really love the quality of the blue shades in here. I think they are really hard to formulate, and Urban Decay did a really good job with these. The formula of the blue and green shades are really good, but this palette is let down by a few shades. The light pink is very dusty with little pigment, the purple is patchy and hard to blend but isn't entirely unworkable. The real let down of this palette is the black shade. I think I disagree with a few people on this but I think it's really hard to work with, it's more of a grey, it's very sheer and dusty. A few times I've tried to use this to deepen a look and the shadow just seems to fall off the brush and leave no pigment on my actual eye but a lot of fall out on my cheek. I don't really see the need for this shade either, especially as Basquiat often used a very pitch black shade in his paintings, to me it would make more sense if this was a really black shade that was very pigmented, not this lack lustre shadows. Really, I can work with the pink and purple, but I can tell you I'll probably not use the black shade much. And even though I've been really harsh, I still absolutely love this palette. I reach for it a whole lot, and I've managed to create a wide variety of looks as well, which makes it a very good purchase for me. I'm just blown away by the pigmentation of the bright pink, greens and blues, which makes this palette so worth it for me. I would only suggest this if you are looking for good quality coloured shadows, if you don't wear colourful makeup there's no point buying this because the colours are very specific, I would get a more general 'rainbow' palette that included more coloured shadows because it gives you the option to incorporate any daring colour, meaning you'll probably use it more than this. But if you really love blue or green eyeshadow, do check this out. 

I know it seems like I've been a little negative in this review, but I would like to stress that both of these palettes work really well for me, but that doesn't necessarily mean they will work for everyone and I am very aware that I don't use makeup in a conventional sense, so I don't want to suggest a product that may be really good quality but you just won't use. Being savvy about makeup, not getting caught up in the hype and only buying things you genuinely want and know you will use is the best way to be a smart makeup shopper. 

I also wish that they'd been a little bit different with the collection, maybe releasing quads rather than 8 pan palettes, I think that would've been cooler, to have say the blues and green in one quad, and so on. It would mean you could be a bit more selective, picking what specifically works for you and it would be a little bit more special, a small little piece of makeup art. Anyway, I hope this review helped you if you needed some help deciding which palette to buy, I'll leave you with a few instagram pics in which I've used the palettes just so you can see what they look like on the eye! 

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Gem x

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