The Hollywood actor Ryan O’Neal has won a dispute over an Andy Warhol painting of his ex-partner Farrah Fawcett. The six-man, six-woman jury rejected the claim by the University of Texas, that the painting was part of a bequeath of her personal art collection. The 1970s icon left a similar portrait to her alma mater and the university claimed that both were included in her collection.
“It’s an awesome, awesome feeling,” said Ryan’s son Patrick O’Neal, who yelped in court when the verdict was read out. Their father was not in court: Patrick, whose mother is actress Leigh Taylor-Young, said he could not attend because he had had minor cancer surgery on one cheek. Twenty-eight year-old Redmond, O’Neal and Fawcett’s only child together, said he believed his mother had helped steer the jury in the right direction. “I know she had something to do with this up there,” he said. The university’s lawyer David Beck voiced disappointment, and remained tight-lipped about a possible appeal. He noted the length of deliberations and the non-unanimous decision; the jury voted 9 to 3 in O’Neal’s favour. “We’ll have to see where we go from here,” he said. Hopefully there will not be a further expensive appeal.
The university of Texas sued Mr O’Neal after the Warhol painting was clearly seen in the actor’s home during the filming of the reality TV show “Ryan and Tatum: The O’Neals.” The university claimed that Fawcett bequeathed all her artwork to her alma mater when she died, and insisted the Silk screen on canvas work, which was created in 1980 should be displayed in the museum next to a near-identical portrait, also of the late actress.
O’Neal’s lawyers always insisted that Warhol gave one portrait to Fawcett and the other to the Oscar nominated ‘Love Story’ actor. The 72-year-old told the court that he had left the Warhol at Farrah’s house for safe keeping because his new girlfriend “was uncomfortable with Farrah staring at her” from the wall at his home. He said he removed the work from Fawcett’s Wilshire Boulevard condominium shortly after she died of cancer on June 25, 2009 aged 62. O’Neal said he kept the portrait at his Malibu home from 1980 to 1998, but loaned it to Fawcett from time to time, to take to exhibitions with her version of the painting.
Fawcett was born in Texas and attended art college at University of Texas for three years. She never graduated after she was discovered and moved to LA to pursue an acting career. David Beck, the university’s lawyer said the portrait was worth about $12 million. O’Neal’s lawyer Martin Singer estimated its value at just under $1 million, adding: “The University of Texas should have been satisfied with what they got.”
This case now raises many questions about squandering precious university funds on a case that was always going to be difficult to win. The curators of the University of Texas collection and their administrators have waisted valuable resources which could have been put towards mounting exhibitions and improving the gallery. The actor’s sons Redmond and Patrick welcomed the verdict, which came after two days of jury deliberations.