Lot 41
  • 41

Andy Warhol

1,800,000 - 2,500,000 USD
bidding is closed


  • Andy Warhol
  • Diamond Dust Shadows
  • acrylic, diamond dust and silkscreen ink on canvas, in two parts
  • each: 78 x 50 in. 198.1 x 127 cm.
  • Executed circa 1979.


Left Panel (PA65.085):
Estate of the Artist
The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, New York
Private Collection, New York
Heiner Bastian Fine Art, Berlin
Private Collection
Phillips, New York, May 13, 2005, Lot 362
Acquired by the present owner from the above

Right Panel (PA65.080):
Estate of the Artist
The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, New York
Private Collection
Matthew Marks Gallery, New York
Acquired by the present owner from the above


New York, Gagosian Gallery, Andy Warhol: Diamond Dust Shadow Paintings, May - June 2000, pl. 14, illustrated in color (right panel)
Los Angeles, The Museum of Contemporary Art, The Painting Factory: Abstraction After Warhol, April - August 2012, pp. 30-31, illustrated in color (both panels) 

Catalogue Note

“No other painter has come close to this radicality of gesture and self-denial… These paintings hover as the shadow of life’s edge. These paintings are Andy Warhol’s touch, his distance… All of the images of Andy’s paintings have passed through the shadow and light of these paintings, bolstering up and heralding in this vision of the existential.” Julian Schnabel, ‘Shadow Paintings’ in Exh. Cat., New York, Gagosian Gallery, Andy Warhol: Shadow Paintings, 1989)

Strikingly dramatic in their monochromatic onyx surfaces, the two panels of Andy Warhol’s Diamond Dust Shadows glimmer with the intense luminosity of nightfall. Oscillating between the abstraction of the image and the ephemeral effect of the medium, Diamond Dust Shadows embodies a myriad of Warholian tropes: the glitter of glamour and money, the radiance of religion, the complexity of perception within image repetition, and indeed the nature of painting itself. As a subject, shadows are entirely abstract and yet representational; they stand as a record of the ephemeral image that they purport to capture. With the Shadows, Warhol reached new territory in abstraction; intriguingly enigmatic in their mirrored hallucinatory impression, Diamond Dust Shadows from 1979 brilliantly chronicles the act of painting, while reducing all of Warhol’s work up to that point to its very nucleus: the pure emptiness of images. In her essay for the Tate Modern retrospective of Warhol’s work, curator Donna De Salvo extolled the series’ resonance: “The Shadows have been discussed as existential statements, as everything and nothing, as something fleeting, changeable and as intangible as real shadows. They have also been characterized as commentary on the very act of painting… ” (Donna de Salvo in Exh. Cat., London, Tate Gallery (and travelling), Andy Warhol Retrospective, 2002, p. 51)

The Shadow series marked a new departure in Warhol’s career, away from the 1960s cultural icons and commodity symbols towards an idiom of abstraction that includes the RorschachsCamouflage, and Oxidation series of the late 1970s and early 1980s. Created circa 1979, Warhol’s Shadow paintings were the penultimate expression of this new direction, executed in monochromatic palettes of creamy white or velvety black, as well as vivid colors against black. Marshalling the visual impact of contrasts – between light and dark, positive and negative - Warhol’s filmic eye is fully celebrated by this seductive series. While the stark juxtaposition of jewel-toned colors and deep black shadows animate the colored series of Shadows, the sparkling surface and ambiguous contrasts in the cool black and radiant silver of the present work brings a deeper complexity to the shadow as signifier and subject. Indeed, the diptych Diamond Dust Shadows inhabits more fully the subtlety of shadows in that it illuminates as much as it obscures.

Based on photographs taken in Warhol’s famed New York City studio The Factory, the Shadows create a mood of ultimate intangibility. Warhol selected the images for his screens from Polaroids shot by his studio assistant Ronnie Cutrone, who set up stage-lit matte boards and sheets of cardboard to project angular shadows, further articulated in deep contrast through the resulting irradiation of the screen. The diagonal configuration of the shadows and highly gestural brushwork of his Shadows are suggestive of the bravura paint-handling of the Abstract Expressionists, while the sleek monochrome and reductive formalism of the paintings recall Minimalism. Married with the mechanical reproduction of Warhol’s trademark screening technique, the paintings adopt a multivalent stratum of art historical connotations.

The shadow as a symbol for transience and mortality appears in a variety of works in Warhol’s last decade. In fact, Warhol had also used the shadow to mystify and disguise certain elements within major 1960s works such as the Death and Disaster series and his 1966-1967 Self Portraits. Repetition of the image only increased the challenge to grasp the “shadow” visually as well as metaphorically. The series of multi-colored Shadow paintings, originally conceived by Warhol as one work, includes a vast installation of 102 paintings in 17 different colors, now in the collection of the Dia Art Foundation, and recently exhibited for only the second time in its entirety at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles in 2014-2015. Installed alongside each other, these Shadow paintings present the appearance of a reel of film, spooling the same image across an almost limitless space.

The present diptych honors the concept of seriality that lies at the very core of Warhol’s oeuvre and revolutionized art in the 1960s. In the place of the colliding individuality of bold multi-colored Shadows, Warhol here employs the diamond dust surface which unites the two black canvases. In 1979 Rupert Smith introduced Warhol to the perfect type of ground glass that brought a wealth of "diamond dust" allusions to Warhol’s work of this period. From the glitter of disco to the sheen of consumerism and finally the radiance of religious icons, this lustrous material that captures and projects light either evokes commercialism in his Diamond Dust Shoes or the sublime as beautifully embodied in Diamond Dust Shadows. As de Salvo noted of the Shadow paintings: "no essence is revealed, no single truth asserts itself.  The experience is one of a late twentieth century landscape, everything is surface and nothing but surface." (Exh. Cat., London, Tate Gallery, Andy Warhol, London, 2002, p. 51)