The University of Texas at Austin is suing for their right to possession of an Andy Warhol portrait of Farrah Fawcett, the American actress famous for her role in the television series Charlie’s Angels. The University, Fawcett’s alma mater, alleges that the painting is part of the art collection Fawcett bequeathed to the school before her death in 2009.
Warhol made only two known paintings of the iconic actress – one of which currently hangs at the University’s Blanton Museum of Art. The second hangs in the Malibu home of Ryan O’Neal, the Love Story actor with whom Fawcett had 30 year on-again, off-again relationship.
O’Neal argues that Fawcett did not own the painting at the time of her death. He claims that Warhol was an old friend and approached him about the painting. However, an attorney for the University argued that “Warhol approached Fawcett directly, at a luncheon at a Houston country club.” Nevertheless, O’Neal testified that “he and Fawcett each received a painting as part of the deal. They carried them out and loaded them into a Checker cab.”
Related: Trustee of $15 Million Estate Treats It As His Own
The portrait hung in O’Neal’s home from 1980 until 1998, when it was removed following the couple’s infamous break-up after Fawcett found O’Neal in bed with a much younger woman. CNN reports that O’Neal testified that a year following the incident he asked Fawcett to “keep the portrait with her, store it for me, because my young friend was uncomfortable with Farrah staring at her” and Farrah responded that “I’d like you to leave it there because I want to make her uncomfortable.”
If Warhol bestowed the painting to O’Neal as he claims, then the contested painting is not part of the art collection that Fawcett left to the University.
Related: Attorney Assigns Property to Himself in Legal Malpractice Case
Certified art appraiser, Lee Drexler, testified as an expert witness for the University. She described the 40-inch by 40-inch silkscreen painting featuring Fawcett’s bright turquoise eyes, shiny red lips, and her famous hair tucked behind one ear as “gorgeous” and a painting that “makes your eyes pop.” She notes that “because of Fawcett’s fame and beauty, Warhol’s portrait of her was extraordinary.” Drexler values the painting at $12 million, well above the average $7.5 million a Warhol piece is generally auctioned for.
However, this appraisal was questioned by O’Neal’s attorney. Todd Egan “noted the university had insured its version of the Warhol portrait for around $600,000, and the version hanging in O’Neal’s home was appraised in 2009 for less than $1 million.”
The value of the painting will be important in determining damages if the jury finds that the painting belonged to Fawcett and that O’Neal improperly took the artwork following her death.