Andy Warhol’s Shoe with Diamond Dust catches the viewer’s eye with its gem-like and celestial appearance as light catches and enlivens the multifaceted shimmering surface. Completed in 1980, it is a perfect exemplar of this late series in Warhol’s oeuvre in which he commemorates the leitmotif of footwear that had such personal and professional significance for him throughout his career. Shoes were an important subject for Warhol throughout his career. Fresh-faced and hungry for success, Warhol arrived in New York City in 1949 to commence a career as a commercial illustrator. He quickly achieved renown with his “blotted-ink” style advertisements of shoes for luxury retailers that appeared in major publications such as The New York Times.
The surface of the canvas shivers as a singular pink slipper floats against a sparkling jet-black background. His application of the sparkling surface, a technique he began experimenting with in 1979, proved to be perfectly Warholian. It allowed his preferred themes, fame and glamor, to be manifested materially on the canvas, utilizing the social connotations of diamonds as the most highly-coveted objects. The dazzling effect of the shimmering canvas evokes the twinkling light emanating from a disco ball and bouncing off of the shoes of New York City’s elite. Warhol emphasizes the superficial nature of the work with a sparkling surface that highlights the lack of depth to the two-dimensional picture plane, implying the vapid nature of American consumer culture.
Always with an eye towards mass marketing and appealing to innate human desires, Warhol shrewdly recognized the sensuality of female shoes. The viewer’s imagination is set ablaze with visions of beautiful women and their fabulous, immaculate shoes. Evoking loose references to the legendary Studio 54 nightclub, the work contains strong autobiographical elements, in its allusions to his prolonged history with shoes as subject and his enduring preoccupation with money, fashion, and fame. We remain voyeurs observing such opulence from a distance. Timeless and highly representative of its maker and his oeuvre, Shoes with Diamond Dust is a complex meditation upon Warhol’s contemporary American culture.