Andy Warhol Diamond Dust Shoes

“I just happen to like ordinary things. When I paint them, I don’t try to make them extraordinary. I just try to paint them ordinary-ordinary.” – Andy Warhol

‘Iconic’ may be the most overused description for an artwork. But for Andy, who came to achieve first name celebrity recognition as iconic as ‘Marilyn’, ‘Jackie’ or ‘Arnold’, a list of all the artwork images we know to be iconic from his oeuvre might challenge the length of the closing credits for “Return of the King”, the final chapter of J. R. Tolkien’s film trilogy. But there was also a simple, down-to-earth side to Andy. By 1980, the closing decade of his life, he yearned to return to his roots as couture queen of 5th Avenue window dressers and the commercial artist who rocked the world of Vogue, Harper’s Bizarre and haute footwear companies from Henri Bandel to Bonwit Teller. As he remarked, “I’m doing shoes because I’m going back to my roots. In fact, I think I should nothing but shoes from now on,” (A. Warhol, July 24, 1980, quoted in P. Hackett, (ed.), The Andy Warhol Diaries, 1989, p. 306). He began by photographing piles of shoes. It became a fixation. He did drawings, and later that year, embarked upon the Diamond Dust Shoes series of large prints in two versions: the first, a portfolio of five screen-prints of low contrast, ghostly-hued shoes against a black backdrop, and a second, more popular version of brilliantly hued shoes carefully arranged and based on his ever-ubiquitous Polaroids. Both versions are dazzling.

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    (from left): Andy Warhol, “Shoes”, c. 1980, Polaroid, Polacolor / Andy Warhol, “Roy Halston”, 1980, Polaroid, Polacolor
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    (from left): Andy Warhol, “High Heel Shoes”, c. 1960, Ink and Tempera on Paper / Andy Warhol, “Shoes”, 1948, Ink and Acrylic on Cardboard

Andy clearly had a thing about shoes, but it is not enough to say he was fascinated by them. As his good friend, the poet John Giorno recalled, he was sitting in a chair at The Factory when “one thing led to another, and he (Andy) was kissing and licking my shoes. I had always heard he was a shoe fetishist all those years designing shoe ads…I thought with a rush, ‘he’s sucking my shoes!” (John Giorno and William S. Burroughs, You Got to Burn to Shine, 1993, pgs. 131-32) That fetish was not much of secret. Rupert Jasen Smith, Andy’s printer from 1977 until his death in 1987 (and the printer from whom Andy learned all about diamond dust) knew enough to purchase the stock of 2,000 pairs of shoes when he happened upon a nearby wholesale company going out of business sale. Andy loved the gift. Later, when Smith tripped and fell, spilling a box of the shoes to the floor, Andy, looked upon them spellbound and realized the pell-mell arrangement held as much good fortune as an African bone reading.

While diamond dust proved to be too chalky for Warhol’s sensibilities, he settled on pulverized glass and the Diamond Dust Shoe series came to fruition via an ad campaign assignment from his good friend Roy Halston Frowick, the fashion designer known as Halston. The iconography embraces Andy’s early dreams of glamor and fame, but with its sparkling surface the imagery congers up the strobe of a disco ball, and for those that recall the event, the Studio 54 New Year’s Eve celebrations of the late 1970s when four tons of glitter were trucked in, and revelers danced the night on stardust.

The print offered here is from the same portfolio, signed and numbered, 6/10 AP (Artist-Proof) in graphite, printed on D’Arches Watercolor using the cold press technique. The colors match those as shown in the 1989 revised version of the catalogue raisonné. (ed. Frayda Feldman and Jörge Schellmann, Andy Warhol Prints: A Catalogue Raisonné, Revised Edition, 1989, pg. 89)


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