Made-Up History
Comments 15

Made-Up History: Jean-Michel Basquiat’s “Cassius Clay,” 1982

In this edition of Made-Up History, I’ll be talking about someone who is very dear to my heart. Jean-Michel Basquiat is my favorite artist. It’s really hard to pick one, but if I had to, it would be Basquiat.

He started out as a street artist and he would tag his work (then, a collaborative venture with friend Al Diaz) with “SAMO,” which is a hypocoristic name for “Same Old Shit.” The Village Voice published a piece on some of their works.

He graduated from street art and graffiti by 1979 and by 1980, he started showing some pieces in group shows. In 1981, a piece by Rene Ricard called “The Radiant Child” was published in Artforum Magazine, which brought him to the attention of the art scene.

His works were provocative, a commentary on consumerism, popular culture, and cultural politics, and his style was a new take on primitivism. There were a lot of emerging modern artists in New York during this time, and he was one of the ones who shot up to dizzying fame.

Jean-Michel Basquiat died of a drug overdose at the peak of his fame in August 1988, about a month and a half before I was born. He was 27 years old.

There are far too many things I can say about Basquiat, which I will maybe do at another time and in another place. What I do know is that Basquiat retrospective I saw at the Brooklyn Museum in 2005 changed my life.

The work I picked to “recreate” is called Cassius Clay, and Basquiat made it in 1982, which is pretty early in his career. Cassius Clay is the real name of The People’s Champion, boxer Muhammad Ali.



This piece isn’t one of the ones that I’ve come to know and love. Most of Basquiat’s work involve a lot of color, so I wanted to pick one that had just a few focal points but was something I was very attracted to. This is perfect because it had like a minty pistachio color, which I wanted to do for my eyes.

Made-Up History Basquiat - Face 2

So, this is what I came up with! I wish my lid space was a bit larger so I can really make a big, minty statement, just like Cassius Clay and its background.

Made-Up History Basquiat - Face I added a little bit of blue on the outer corners, which I think you can best see in this picture. I added a warm brown with red undertones to my crease to tone down the color on my eyelids. I lined the upper lash line and the outer third of the lower lash line with a matte black eyeshadow. Then with the same minty green on my lids, I lined the inner third of my lower lash line.

Then, I did some light contouring and highlighting, topped off with a bold deep red lip. It’s pretty simple, though perhaps bolder than I would normally wear out.

Made-Up History Basquiat - Close Up Eyes

(It was very hard to take these pictures because it was so hot today, I kept having to wipe beads of sweat off of my face every two minutes.)

Color makeup: Addiction by Ayako eyeshadow (Midnight Drive), Le Métier de Beauté Melange Palette (Cyan), Le Métier de Beauté Kaleidoscope Eye Kit in Northern Lights (Magnetic), Urban Decay Naked 2 Palette (Blackout), The Body Shop Brow & Liner Kit (02), Wet n Wild Bronzer (Princess), MAC Extra Dimension Blush (Fiery Impact), MAC x Hayley Williams Mineralize Skinfinish (Lightscapade), Guerlain Rouge G L’Extrait (M69 Orgueil)

Base: L’Oreal Lucent Magique Liquid Foundation (G5 Gold Shell), Physician’s Formula Youth-Boosting Cosmeceutical Powder (Matte, Transparent)

What do you think? Who is your favorite artist and why?

Please also let me know if there is anybody you like that I should maybe feature on Made-Up History. If you’re new to my blog, Made-Up History is a series I started early on where I take a work of art and try to transform it into a (mostly) wearable look. You can see the rest of the series here.

Addiction by Ayako actually just released Basquiat-centric eye palettes, and I asked my sister’s friend to pick a few up for me pre-Makeup No Buy, but I don’t know if she was able to since she’s busy working. (Which I should be, hehe.) In any case, here’s the link in case any of you want to take a look at the beautiful collection.

If you want to know more about Basquiat, Julian Schnabel made a biopic called Basquiat. Tamra Davis also made a film called Jean-Michel Basquiat: The Radiant Child in 2009.


  1. I love it every single time you have a new post up, but I have to say that your Made-Up History posts are my absolute favourites! It’s a nice way to get creative with looks without constantly resorting to recreating celebrity make-up. I think this one might be my favourite one so far; I like how you can see that it’s inspired by the work (the colour of your lipstick, the eyeliner and the mint on your lids) but it’s still quite wearable. It’s daring, but you’d be able to pull it off without people staring too much!

    He’s not my absolute favourite, but I think a make-up look based on some of Gustav Klimt’s stuff could be pretty cool. I’m imagining a relatively plain face with almost ruddy cheeks constrasted with gold eyeliner in an intricate design.

    • Aww, thank you so much! 🙂 They’re probably my favorites to try and put together.

      Thanks for the tip, I’ll definitely try that. I prefer his sketches, though, but I think the ruddy cheeks would suit that style of his, too.

  2. I love seeing Cassius Clay interpreted into a look. It’s very special and creative! You wear the pale mint green so well.

  3. I really like this look on you! The grey eye shadow and the red lip suits your skin and attitude just fine. Great look!

  4. This is fabulous! The dark lip looks BEAUTIFUL!! And I can sympathize with the hot climate 😛 I don’t care though, I think dark lips can be worn even outside of winter.

    I don’t really have a favorite “artist” but my favorite art movement is Pre-Raphaelite (John Collier’s “Lady Godiva” is perhaps my favorite painting ever).

    • Thank you! I’ve never had “winter” here, so I wear dark lips all year round. THE FOUNDATION MELTS, THOUGH D: It’s very, very sad.

      Thanks for sharing, I’ll check it out!

  5. This has got to be one of my favorite looks on you! 🙂 Love it! 🙂 Lately, I’ve been loving a lot of Elizabeth Peyton’s works. 🙂

  6. Everytime I see a piece of Basquiat’s, it breaks my heart. I love his work so much and I love that you chose one of his works to recreate. One of my absolute favourite artists is J M W Turner. His work is mesmerising, and encompasses so much talented that it’s hard for me to fathom sometimes. I think he’d make a great “made up history”, too, since he often worked with a specific palette. Other favourites (most are quite common, I’m afraid) are Rothko (few people are capable of moving me to tears like him), Picasso, Van Gogh (if I could live in a world where all art was Van Gogh, I wouldn’t consider that a sacrifice), Ai Wei Wei, Jasper Johns, and Louise Bourgeois. I’m sure I’m missing a few, but those are all artists that mean a lot to me. Basquiat, Van Gogh, Turner and Rothko combined could make me give up all other art.

    • Same, same. Ugh. I don’t know what it is about his work but it really moves me.

      Thanks for all the recs, and I agree, I love those artists, too. I did Rothko once already. He’s such a beautiful person.

  7. I love it when you do Made Up History! And I think this is the best look so far (in the MUH series). I’m interested to see you interpret a Piet Mondrian painting into a make-up look. Haha 😛

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