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Jul-15-2011 14:50printcomments

University Sues Actor For Warhol Portrait of Farrah Fawcett

The complaint also asks the court to require O’Neal to maintain the work in a “safe and secure” location, pending outcome in the case.

Artist Andy Warhol's portrait of the late actress Farrah Fawcett.
A complaint centers around Artist Andy Warhol's portrait of the late actress Farrah Fawcett. Image: kutnews.org

(SACRAMENTO) - The University of Texas (UT) system is suing the American actor Ryan O’Neal for possession of an irreplaceable portrait the renowned artist Andy Warhol created of the late actress Farrah Fawcett.

Filed on July 8 in United States District Court, Central District of California, the university regents alleged that through a living trust, Fawcett bequeathed her entire collection of art to the University of Texas at Austin, her alma mater.

Fawcett was born in the southern Texas coastal city of Corpus Christi, on Feb. 2, 1947.

She held an expansive private collection of art that contained a second Warhol-created portrait of the actress, the university’s complaint noted. The portraits were created in the early 1980s, court papers say.

“UT Austin received only one of Ms. Fawcett's Warhol portraits,” the complaint alleged. “Thereafter, UT Austin discovered that Mr. O'Neal had taken possession of the missing portrait.”

Farrah had a son with O'Neal, perhaps best known for his roles in ABC’s primetime soap Peyton Place, the 1970 movie Love Story and his performance in the 1973 movie Paper Moon, opposite his daughter Tatum O'Neal, in a role that at 10-year-old brought her the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress.

Pending outcome in the case seeking imposition of a constructive trust, UT regents asked the Los Angeles-based District Court to compel O’Neal to purchase “sufficient” insurance for the painting, pending outcome of the case.

“The Warhol portrait is an irreplaceable piece of art for which legal damages could not fully compensate UT Austin if the portrait is lost or damaged during the pendency of this dispute,” the university’s complaint said.

In the 1960s, while a student at UTA, Fawcett was discovered by a publicist, which led to her move to California, the university regents’ complaint reads.

Her 30-year Hollywood career spanned television, movies and the stage. She became a star from fame from her role in the 1970s-era television series "Charlie's Angels." Fawcett had been married to "Six Million Dollar Man" star Lee Majors, from 1973 to 1982.

Fawcett owned the pair of portraits until her death June 25, 2009, following a long bout with cancer. She was 62.

“The enduring value and public interest in the Warhol Portraits is a testament not only to Mr. Warhol’s talent and artistry, but also to Ms. Fawcett’s status as a cultural icon,” the university said.

Through the Fawcett Living Trust, "Fawcett left all of her artwork and objects of art to UT Austin,” the complaint said. “UT Austin received only one of Ms. Fawcett's Warhol portraits. Thereafter, UT Austin discovered that Mr. O'Neal had taken possession of the missing portrait."

O'Neal, with whom she had a son, was not included in Fawcett's wills, the university noted.

“The Warhol portraits are estimated to have substantial value,” the complaint reads, noting that Fawcett herself had the paintings insured. Filed in United States District Court, Central District of California, the university’s request for injunctive relief seeks a jury trial and possession of the Warhol portrait.

“UT has suffered substantial damages as a result of Mr. O’Neal’s conversion of its property, in an amount exceeding $1,000,000,” the university said.UT is asking the federal court to compel transfer of the portrait to UT. Alternatively, the university seeks damages “equivalent to the monetary value” of the portrait converted by O’Neal.

The complaint also asks the court to require O’Neal to maintain the work in a “safe and secure” location, pending outcome in the case.

The university’s complaint was signed by Charles Paterson, senior counsel at Morrison & Foerster’s Los Angeles office.

The Case is The Board of Regents for the University of Texas vs. Ryan O'Neal, Cal. C.D., No. CV11-05636.

___________________________________

The reporter is based in Sacramento, where he covers California insurance litigation.




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