- Andy Warhol
- Diamond Dust Shoes
- acrylic, silkscreen ink and diamond dust on canvas
- 228 by 178cm.; 89 3/4 by 70in.
- Executed in 1980-81.
Acquired from the above by the present owner in 1999
The motif of the shoe had been of great significance to Warhol throughout his career: it was his drawings of shoes for commercial publications in 1950s New York that offered the young Warhol his first taste of critical and monetary success. By 1955 he was designing witty and innovative adverts on a regular basis for the I Miller shoe company, work for which he was celebrated with awards from the Art Director’s Club, being referred to as ‘the Leonardo da Vinci of the shoe trade’ by Women’s Wear Daily (quoted in: David Bourdon, Warhol, New York 1989, p. 42). Even the Museum of Modern Art in New York took note at this early moment in the artist’s career in choosing to include one of Warhol’s shoe pictures in a 1956 exhibition, Recent Drawings U.S.A. The artist’s early, almost fetishistic, veneration of female footwear stemmed perhaps from an association of shoes with a glamorous, moneyed lifestyle, one far removed from the style in which he had been raised and which he was determined to achieve through his own efforts. Warhol’s repeated depictions of shoes throughout this first part of his career not only effectively launched his creative efforts in the public consciousness, but also enabled him to gain an entrée into the world of creative decadence and glamour which he came to epitomise over the next three decades.
By the time Warhol created his series of Diamond Dust Shoes, the artist had become internationally renowned for his highly distinctive silkscreen technique, through which the emblematic figures and images of his consumer and celebrity obsessed age were disseminated through a language which has arguably become the ultimate manifestation of a pure Pop dialectic. Warhol recognised high-heels as agents of metamorphosis by which a quotidian necessity of dress could become a totem of glamour. By the turn of the 1980s Warhol was looking back on his career and the series of Diamond Dust Shoes represent a threshold in his output. In 1979, he had initiated his Reversals and Retrospective series, which revisited his most famous icons from Soup Cans, Car Crashes, and the Electric Chairs to Marilyn, Mona Lisa and Mao. As David Bourdon has explained, "By ransacking his own past to produce the Reversals and Retrospectives, Warhol revealed himself to be one of the shrewdest of the new wave of post-modernists" (David Bourdon in: ibid., p. 380). For Bourdon, the Shoes executed at the beginning of the new decade stand as the epitome of this revolutionary perspective, and are thus critical to the entire direction of his now highly-celebrated canon of late work: "Warhol's post-modernist attitude is particularly discernible in his paintings and prints of shoes" (Ibid.).
When Warhol decided to re-visit this emblematic theme in his oeuvre in 1980, he had just begun to develop a new silkscreen printing technique involving the use of diamond dust. First presented to him by Rupert Smith around 1979, this medium seemed purpose-made for Warhol. Sparkling and glittering, the inherent qualities of diamond dust make a direct reference to movie star glamour, high fashion fame and money. As a jewelry collector himself, Warhol loved the glamour of gems was immediately enchanted by this new material. However, the diamond dust proved too powdery and did not sparkle enough for Warhol's taste, so Smith ordered larger crystals of pulverized glass from an industrial supply company in New Jersey. With this new form of "diamond dust" Warhol was able to cultivate a technique whereby the dust would adhere to the surface of the canvas in much the same manner as a silkscreened colour, although with a subtly raised surface relief. The result is an extraordinary amalgamation of form and texture, the combination of high heels and diamond dust seeming to encapsulate the giddy, glamorous whirlwind of Warhol’s remarkable life and times.