The Andy Warhol foundation is to sue the Pop Artist’s former bodyguard, Agusto Bugarin of Jersey City for theft of a $20m portrait of Liz Taylor. The 1964 painting was hidden for more than 30 years by the employee, court papers allege.
The silkscreen painting executed with polymer pigment on canvas, titled “Liz,” disappeared in in 1984 three years before the death of the artist, from complications arising from an appendicitis operation.
The Warhol Foundation has now requested that the courts block the sale by the Taglialatella Galleries of the painting and return the picture to the foundation, which administers the estate of the artist. A New York judge has issued a restraining order blocking the work of art from being sold or moved out of a Manhattan warehouse. It has ordered a full enquiry to begin on the 5 November.
The Foundation said Bugarin waited for decades to sell the painting until “after everyone he thought could challenge his ownership, had died.” “He is a patient thief, but a thief nonetheless,” the court papers stated. According to the complaint in state Supreme Court in Manhattan. Bugarin, of Jersey City, New Jersey, claims Warhol gave him the 42.5-inch-by-44.25-inch painting in return for helping him renovate an apartment and assisting on several works of art, according to the complaint.
The aim of the suit is “to prevent a thief and his gallery partner from profiting in stolen goods that would otherwise be used in furtherance of the foundation’s charitable mission,” plaintiff’s attorney Luke Nikas of Boies Schiller & Flexner LLP said in an e-mail.
Bugarin was asked by the estate after Warhol’s death if he was in possession of any of the artists works, that may have been gifted to him. After declaring four of the artist’s works, the foundation fired the bodyguard stating that the art was unaccounted for and therefore stolen. Bugarin never challenged the decision to return the works of art. “Liz” was never declared to the Warhol Foundation and the picture was allegedly concealed for years, it claimed.
Smoking Gun: A photograph of the painting is contained in the estate’s records along with a note stating that it was missing. According to the complaint. Bugarin allegedly brought the work to a New York gallery who accepted it on consignment and began marketing it to potential buyers, the foundation revealed.