Lot 36
  • 36

Andy Warhol

1,500,000 - 2,000,000 GBP
bidding is closed


  • Andy Warhol
  • Fragile - Handle with Care
  • signed five times and dated 62 twice on the overlap
  • silkscreen ink on linen
  • 61.5 by 78.7cm.; 24 1/4 by 31in.


Marvin Ross Friedman, Miami

Margo Leavin Gallery, Los Angeles

Warner Communications, New York

Private Collection, New York

Sale: Christie’s, New York, Post-War and Contemporary Art Evening Auction, 12 November 2013, Lot 73

Acquired directly from the above by the present owner


Exhibition Catalogue, New York, Whitney Museum of American Art, (and travelling), The Warhol Look: Glamour, Style, Fashion, 1997, p. 160, no. 5, illustrated in colour

George Frei and Neil Printz, Eds., The Andy Warhol Catalogue Raisonné: Paintings and Sculptures, Volume 1, 1961-1963, New York 2002, p. 153, no. 172, illustrated in colour


Colour: The colour in the catalogue illustration is fairly accurate although the white background is less cream and the red is slightly warmer in the original. Condition: This work is in very good condition. Inspection under ultraviolet light reveals some fluorescence towards the outer edges and in isolated places throughout, most notably to the top right quadrant: these look to be in accordance with the catalogue raisonne that mentions some inconsistency in the paint layer, which appears to have been applied with a brush in places.
"In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective, qualified opinion. Prospective buyers should also refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue.

Catalogue Note

Executed in the pivotal year of 1962, Andy Warhol’s Fragile – Handle with Care is from one of Warhol’s first ever bodies of works, the Shipping Label series, and marks a decisive turn to the artist’s epoch-defining use of silkscreen. A compelling synthesis of Warhol’s career-long fascination with the relationship between the handmade and the machined, in the present work the repeating cautionary words ‘FRAGILE – Handle with Care’ trace across the white canvas. Warhol relinquishes the harmonious regularity of the modernist, machined grid by introducing the characteristic slips and skips of the screens that give the artist’s works their unique surface tension. Indicative of Warhol’s drôle diction, he contentiously leaves these duplicating associative words open to questioning by not revealing the delicate, ‘fragile’ object. This nascent seriality is evocative of the ultimate multiplicity achieved in the artist’s monumental early silkscreened paintings including 100 Cans (Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo), 200 One Dollar Bills, and 210 Coca Cola Bottles (Daros Collection) all executed in the same year.

Fragile – Handle with Care is one of only sixteen works from this innovative and early Shipping Label series and is one of only two that fully achieves the all-over machined aesthetic with the ‘FRAGILE – Handle with Care’ label. While the present work exploits the manipulation of serial imagery that silkscreen allowed, its execution was simpler and more instinctive than the artist’s later works and is found in only two other series in the entire of Warhol’s oeuvre; his Martinson Coffee labels and his Coca-Cola bottles. These three series are characterised by the way in which Warhol created his screens. Hand-drawn images rather than photographic sources, the screens are a true hybrid of the handmade and mechanised as the traces of the artist’s hand give an immediacy and genuine authenticity. These intimate human signs in large part disappear from his later silkscreen paintings, which he eventually produced with the aid of assistants at The Factory.

The year 1962 was undoubtedly one of the most decisive years of Warhol’s career. He was launched onto the international stage with two ground-breaking exhibitions; his first ever one-man Pop show took place at Ferus Gallery, Los Angeles, and his debut in New York happened at Stable Gallery. Where other Pop artists such as Roy Lichtenstein appropriated popular culture by replicating the Ben-day dots of comic books, Warhol meticulously hand-painted objects such as dollar bills, advertisements, clippings from newspapers and his paintings of Campbell Soup Cans, which were debuted at the acclaimed Ferus show. Dissatisfied with this handmade aesthetic, in 1962 he introduced rubber-stamps to effect an all-over kind of multiplicity to mimic machine production as exemplified by his S + H Green Stamp and Airmail series.

The stamp, however, did not go far enough and he innovatively began to make use of small silkscreens. This method allowed Warhol to finally bring to full fruition the duplicating, readymade effect that is experienced so powerfully in the Shipping Label series. As the artist explained: "In August '62 I started doing silkscreens. The rubber-stamp method I'd been using to repeat images suddenly seemed too homemade; I wanted something stronger that gave more of an assembly-line effect. With silkscreening, you pick a photograph, blow it up, transfer it in glue onto silk, and then roll ink across it so the ink goes through the silk but not through the glue. That way you get the same image, slightly different each time. It was all so simple-quick and chancy. I was thrilled with it” (Andy Warhol quoted in: Exhibition Catalogue, Monaco, Grimaldi Forum, Super Warhol, 2003, p. 65). As evidenced in the repeating pattern of Fragile – Handle with Care, the silkscreen was the perfect solution to Warhol’s aesthetic conundrum.

A signifier of something precious and valuable yet never revelatory of what it signifies, Fragile – Handle with Care is a bravura example of Warhol’s playful appropriation of quotidian imagery. With his relentlessly repeating compositions, the artist simultaneously intensified and dulled the originally intended impact and meaning of his images whether celebrity portraits, dollar bills, or shipping labels. His intention was to limit his artistic intervention by abbreviating the creative act to a simple choice of source image and colour. In Fragile – Handle with Care we see Warhol pioneering and perfecting his craft; an important and transitional work that paved the way for the artist’s full immersion into an almost entirely mechanised mode of painterly production.