“Jean-Michel Basquiat Makeup?” by Richard F. Yates

Yesterday, my older daughter, Frankie, sent me this photo from a shopping trip:

jmb makeup

Apparently, there is now a Jean-Michel Basquiat line of makeup…

I’m not sure how I feel about this. For one thing, I think the advertising and packaging for the products look pretty cool, and I appreciate the fact that everyday consumers who are not Art-Savvy will now be able to see Basquiat inspired images whenever they visit a cosmetics store. However, I do have some reservations:

1. Does using Basquiat’s crown icon to sell cosmetics (or any daily-use product) somehow cheapen or devalue or demystify the original artist’s work? (Or, on the contrary, does it promote his visual style and iconography?)

2. Did Basquiat ever have intentions of designing a line of cosmetics? (Does it MATTER whether the artist INTENDED for his art to be used in this way? There is an argument that an artist creates his/her work and then sets it free—what the culture does with it after RELEASE is no longer the artist’s concern.)

3. WHO GETS THE MONEY? As far as I know, Basquiat never had any children who might benefit from the royalties of such a line of products, so who owns the RIGHTS to the imagery? This is a question that sort of haunts / consumes me. It’s like all of those images of Calvin (from Bill Watterson’s Calvin & Hobbes comic strip) pissing on various brand logos or praying… Is the USE of an artist’s images and icons, without their permission, inevitable? (Especially once the artist is no longer with us to GIVE permission or lodge a complaint.)

So there it is: Jean-Michel can now LITERALLY be the FOUNDATION of your day… Is this a good thing?

—Richard F. Yates

[Photo by Frankie Yates.]

About richardfyates

Compulsive creator of the bizarre and absurd. (Artist, writer, poet, provocateur...)
This entry was posted in advertising, art, art theory and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to “Jean-Michel Basquiat Makeup?” by Richard F. Yates

  1. Dana Doran says:

    Good Questions, but, a cursory review of Urban Decay’s website indicates that the copyright indeed belongs to the estate of Jean Michel Basquiat AND the images were licensed for use by Artestar. So somebody is getting paid. In general, published works are copyrighted for the artist’s life plus seventy years.

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