ANDY WARHOL (1928-1987)
ANDY WARHOL (1928-1987)
ANDY WARHOL (1928-1987)
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ANDY WARHOL (1928-1987)

Diamond Dust Shoes

ANDY WARHOL (1928-1987)
Diamond Dust Shoes
stamped twice with the Estate of Andy Warhol stamp and the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts Inc. stamp and numbered 'PA70.033' (on the overlap)
acrylic, silkscreen ink and diamond dust on canvas
90 1⁄8 x 70 1⁄8in. (228.8 x 178.2cm.)
Executed in 1980
The Estate of Andy Warhol, New York.
The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc., New York.
Gagosian Gallery, New York.
Private Collection.
Anon. sale, Sotheby’s London, 25 June 2003, lot 42.
Acquired at the above sale by the present owner.
New York, Gagosian Gallery, Andy Warhol: Diamond Dust Shoes, 1999, no. 15 (illustrated in colour, p. 33).

Brought to you by

Claudia Schürch
Claudia Schürch Senior Specialist, Head of Evening Sale

Lot Essay

Spanning more than two metres in height, Diamond Dust Shoes (1980) is a monumental work from Andy Warhol’s spectacular series of the same name. Standing among the artist's most deeply personal creations, these glittering works are effectively self-portraits. At the height of his celebrity, Warhol returned to the motif that had first propelled him to fame as a commercial illustrator in the 1950s. Back then, Warhol had been dubbed ‘the Leonardo da Vinci of the shoe trade’ by Women’s Wear Daily. Three decades later, he had taken his place as the undisputed king of Pop Art. ‘I’m doing shoes because I’m going back to my roots’, he said. ‘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, p. 306).

One of Warhol’s earliest assignments as a young illustrator had been a set of shoe drawings for Glamour magazine. His big break, however, came when he was offered a contract with I. Miller Shoes in 1955. The sleek, characterful sketches he produced for the company propelled him into the public eye: across New York, his name became synonymous with shoes. Warhol would make drawings as gifts for friends and professional contacts, later producing an illustrated book entitled À la recherche du shoe perdu. In his hands, shoes became metaphors for fame and success: the artist made around forty drawings of shoes inscribed with the names of celebrities—including Truman Capote, Julie Andrews and James Dean—which he exhibited at the Bodley Gallery in 1956. Transforming ubiquitous, mass-produced footwear into seductive symbols of glamour, these works laid the foundations for his entire practice. The stage was set for the 1960s, where icons such as Campbell’s Soup, Coca-Cola, Marilyn Monroe and Liz Taylor would join his pantheon.

It was not until several decades later that Warhol would return to the shoe. The Diamond Dust Shoes emerged as part of his Retrospective series, in which he revisited some of the most prominent images of his earlier career. In typical Warholian fashion, however, the motif was far from a simple reprisal. As the 1980s dawned, his sparkling heels glittered with new significance. As Vincent Fremont writes, ‘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 60s, once again reflected the times he was living in through his paintings’ (V. Fremont, quoted in Diamond Dust Shoes, exh. cat. Gagosian Gallery, New York 1999, pp. 8-9). Warhol’s shoes had danced from post-war Pop to post-punk glamour, ushering in the era of Jean-Michel Basquiat, Keith Haring, Madonna and David Bowie.

The Diamond Dust Shoes also spoke more specifically to contemporary fashion. They were based on Polaroids taken by Warhol’s assistant Ronnie Cutrone, capturing a mixture of shoes that the artist had sourced himself and others sent to him by the fashion designer Halston. He and Warhol were close friends, and—along with Liza Minelli, Bianca Jagger and others—were regulars on the Studio 54 club circuit. ‘Ronnie turned the box upside down and dumped the shoes out’, recalls Bob Colacello. ‘Andy liked the way they looked spilled all over the floor. So he took a few Polaroids and had Ronnie take a lot more’ (B. Colacello, Holy Terror: Andy Warhol Close Up, New York 1990, p. 443). Warhol spent time tweaking the various haphazard arrangements of shoes: in the present work, a label from the high-end department store Joseph Magnin is visible. The results, in all their multicoloured chaos, border on abstraction.

Warhol had been introduced to ‘diamond dust’ in 1979 by his master printer Rupert Smith. He first employed it in his black-on-black shadow paintings that year, as well as in portraits of Joseph Beuys and Georgia O’Keeffe. Dissatisfied with its chalky appearance, he eventually replaced the medium with pulverised glass, which gave a more alluring sheen. Emblazoned upon a black background—anticipating the haunting ‘Fright Wig’ self-portraits he produced later that decade—the shoes glitter like galaxies and constellations in the night sky. They are apt reflections of an artist who shrouded himself in mystery and enigma: ‘if you want to know all about Andy Warhol, just look at the surface of my paintings …. There’s nothing behind it’, he had once said (A. Warhol, quoted in G. Berg, ‘Andy, My True Story,’ Los Angeles Free Press, March 1967, p. 3). Indeed, for all their glitz, glamour and retrospective poignancy, the Diamond Dust Shoes ultimately give nothing away. Instead they sparkle like broken mirrors, reflecting our dreams, fantasies and desires straight back at us.

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