Andy Warhol's Diamond Dust Shoes presents a striking portrait of a primary theme of the artist's idiosyncratic life. When reflecting on selecting shoes as his subject matter for this series, Warhol said: "I'm doing shoes because I'm going back to my roots. In fact, I think maybe I should do nothing but shoes from now on" (A. Warhol quoted in P. Hackett (ed.), The Andy Warhol Diaries, New York, 1989, July 24, 1980, p. 306).
In the early part of his career in the 1950s, Warhol worked as a commercial illustrator making footwear advertisements for the I. Miller Shoe Company. Warhol rendered shoes fancifully and capriciously, injecting the company's sedate image with glamour. His drawings became well known, a calling card for the young artist, bolstering his burgeoning fame. His interest in women's shoes continued throughout his career through various drawings and sketches of ornate, flourished high heeled shoes. Diamond Dust Shoes builds on Warhol's earlier innovative screen-printing. In the late 1970s, Warhol's printer Rupert Smith brought Warhol a sparkling powder that he thought the artist might use in his paintings and prints. Attracted to the medium's incandescent quality, but unsatisfied with the powder's dryness, Warhol turned to galvanized glass to create the brilliant sheen created in Diamond Dust Shoes. Combining matte black paint with sparkling 'diamond dust' enhanced the elegance and richness of the work. The motif of the glamorous and opulent shoes was an emblem to Warhol of a time when achievement of fame was first accessible.
In the 1999 exhibition at Gagosian Gallery dedicated to Warhol's Diamond Dust Shoes, Andy's friend, Vincent Freemont, sums up how the heady zeitgeist of the age, "The merger of women's shoes and diamond dust was a perfect fit ... Andy created the Diamond Dust Shoe paintings just as the disco, lamé, and stilettos of Studio 54 had captured the imagination of the Manhattan glitterati. Andy, who had been in the vanguard of the New York club scene since the early 60's, once again reflected the times he was living in through his paintings" (V. Fremont, Diamond Dust Shoes, exh. cat., New York, Gagosian Gallery, 1999, pp. 8-9).