Andy Warhol - Contemporary Art Evening Sale London Wednesday, February 11, 2015 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Estate of the Artist
    The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc., New York
    Jablonka Galerie, Cologne
    Private Collection, Germany
    Acquavella Gallery, New York
    Acquired by the present owner from the above

  • Catalogue Essay

    'I'm doing shoes because I'm going back to my roots. In fact, I think I should do nothing but shoes from now on.'

    - ANDY WARHOL, 1980

    Like many of Warhol’s best works, his Diamond Dust Shoes are as much self-portrait as metonym for twentieth century pop culture. They are among the most exciting pieces to emerge from the 1980s Retrospective series, in which Warhol reviewed and collated the defining images of his career: the shoes make reference to the genesis of his artistic practice as a commercial illustrator in 1950s New York, where he found early success as ‘the Leonardo da Vinci of the shoe trade.’ (Women’s Wear Daily, quoted in David Bourdon, Warhol, NY: Harry N. Abrams, 1989, p.42). As Robert Rosenblum writes, ‘Warhol’s personal retrospection has a fully public face, typical of the rapidly escalating historicism of the late twentieth century. It is revealing that Warhol’s subjects in the sixties were almost all contemporary, culled from the news of the day ... But by the eighties, Warhol, like everybody else it would seem, began to look constantly backward, conforming to the century’s twilight mood of excavating memories.’ (‘Warhol as Art History’ in Andy Warhol: A Retrospective, NY: MOMA, 1989, p.32).

    The image is based on a Polaroid photograph, taken some 25 years earlier, of a box of shoes tipped onto the floor by Warhol’s assistant Ronnie Cutrone. Warhol carefully adjusted the final composition of the resulting haphazard arrangement, and experimented extensively with his silkscreen technique to appropriately enshrine the shoes so totemic to his artistic ascendancy. The idea for employing diamond dust came from Warhol’s master printer Rupert Jasen Smith, who used the industrial by-product in his own works; Warhol was disappointed with the chalky result of this otherwise evocative embellishment, and eventually settled on using ground glass, which sparkles convincingly while offering a wry aside in Warhol’s ongoing commentary on our relationship to the simulacrum and the reproduction.

    This glinting layer adds quite literal glamour, a sheen of decadence and enchantment, to Warhol’s surface – a surface to which he famously ordered our absolute submission. ‘If you want to know all about Andy Warhol, just look at the surface of my paintings and films and me, and there I am. There’s nothing behind it.’ (Gretchen Berg, ‘Andy, My True Story,’ Los Angeles Free Press, March 1967, p.3). The shoes, a mass-produced commodity (a brand name is even visible in one insole) are sanctified and aligned with his iconic portraits of glamorous women: they are made into a suggestive facet of the glitzy and thrilling world of fame and fashion that Warhol inhabited. As Vincent Freemont writes, ‘With the Diamond Dust Shoes, Andy was able to combine some of his favourite themes – movie star glamour, high fashion, and money. 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 60s, once again reflected the times he was living in through his paintings.’ (Diamond Dust Shoes, exh. cat., Gagosian Gallery, NY, 1999, pp. 8-9).

    There is far more at work here than a glib portrait of sparkling celebrity culture, however. Warhol had a long-standing interest in shoes, well beyond his commercial illustrations. His recently opened ‘time-capsules,’ boxes in which he collected and sealed thousands of objects over the last thirteen years of his life, were found to contain dozens of shoes including some owned by celebrities such as Clark Gable – and, rather more surprisingly, a 2000 year old mummified foot. Just as the ancient Egyptians wished to preserve their dead, in Diamond Dust Shoes Warhol created a glittering afterlife for the object of his fascination.

    The intensely personal fetishisation displayed in Diamond Dust Shoes carries another vital biographical aspect when viewed in the context of Warhol’s religion. He was raised a Byzantine Catholic by his Slovakian parents, and attended church every week throughout his life; he had an audience with Pope John Paul II in 1980, and is buried in St. John the Baptist Byzantine Catholic Cemetery in Pittsburgh. In this light, the shoes’ function as a talismanic referent can be seen as born from the Catholic impulse towards reliquary preservation, perhaps even recalling the sparkling medieval containers for saints’ bones that are often fashioned from gold, silver and precious jewels. A gilded shoe sculpture dating from 1954 seems to show this inclination even in Warhol’s early years, and highlights an aspect of ornamental continuity in what can seem an overwhelmingly diverse body of work. Beyond the merely decorative, the imposing shapes of the Diamond Dust Shoes take on a bold and deeply evocative hagiographic function, encapsulating Warhol’s own personal and aesthetic history while invoking a tradition that is far more ancient. They canonize an element of the artist himself, forming a tangible object for our displaced veneration.

    It is appropriate to these memorial themes that the Diamond Dust Shoes are here presented in lurid violet on an inky black background, blown up to a vast and daunting scale like galactic entities. Warhol became increasingly preoccupied with death following his attempted assassination by Factory associate Valerie Solanas in 1968, creating his Guns and Knives series using a similar process to that which he used for the shoes: these oversized objects are paralleled with his portraits, confrontational and seductive in their stark outlines. The shoes are a dark and powerful achievement. Magnificently ominous, beautiful and menacing, attractive and just a bit sleazy, they tell a richly lucid part of Warhol’s story.

  • Artist Biography

    Andy Warhol

    American • 1928 - 1987

    Andy Warhol was the leading exponent of the Pop Art movement in the U.S. in the 1960s. Following an early career as a commercial illustrator, Warhol achieved fame with his revolutionary series of silkscreened prints and paintings of familiar objects, such as Campbell's soup tins, and celebrities, such as Marilyn Monroe. Obsessed with popular culture, celebrity and advertising, Warhol created his slick, seemingly mass-produced images of everyday subject matter from his famed Factory studio in New York City. His use of mechanical methods of reproduction, notably the commercial technique of silk screening, wholly revolutionized art-making.

    Working as an artist, but also director and producer, Warhol produced a number of avant-garde films in addition to managing the experimental rock band The Velvet Underground and founding Interview magazine. A central figure in the New York art scene until his untimely death in 1987, Warhol was notably also a mentor to such artists as Keith Haring and Jean-Michel Basquiat.


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Diamond Dust Shoes

acrylic, silkscreen ink, diamond dust on canvas
228.8 x 177.8 cm (90 1/8 x 70 in.)
Stamped by the Estate of Andy Warhol and the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc. twice and numbered twice 'PA70.012' on the overlap. Further numbered 'PA70.012' on the stretcher.

£1,500,000 - 2,500,000 

Sold for £2,322,500

Contact Specialist
Peter Sumner
Head of Contemporary Art, London
+44 207 318 4063

Contemporary Art Evening Sale

London Auction 12 February 2015 7pm