Warhol Nephews Defend Alleged Liz Portrait’s ‘Patient Thief’

In October it was reported that the Andy Warhol Foundation filed a lawsuit against former Warhol bodyguard Agusto Bugarin after it was alleged that the former employee had stolen a 1964 Warhol portrait of Elizabeth Taylor, resulting in Manhattan Supreme Court justice Cynthia Kern then blocked the painting from being sold.

Now further details have come to light regarding the case of the Warhol Liz painting, including Agusto Bugarin’s, relationship with the Warhol family has now emerged. Warhol, who died in 1987 at age 58, employed Bugarin as a bodyguard in the 1980s. Bugarin, of Jersey City, New Jersey, claimed Warhol gave him the 42.5-inch-by-44.25-inch painting entitled ‘Liz’ in return for helping him renovate an apartment, and assisting on several works of art.

But The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, established by the artist’s will to hold his works, alleged in a lawsuit that former bodyguard Agusto Bugarin was a “patient thief” having stolen the precious work in 1984, the ex employee then tried to sell it “after everyone he thought could challenge his ownership of the work had died.

Now in a unexpected twist to the story; two of Warhol’s nephews, James and George Warhola, have come to Bugarin’s defense. The pair have no relationship to the foundation, and reportedly believe Bugarin is innocent of the charges.

“It’s absolutely bizarre to me that Agusto is being portrayed as this grand thief,” James wrote. “I have to think that the foundation’s lawyers are lacking in firsthand knowledge of my uncle’s relationship with the Bugarin family. My uncle adored the Bugarin family and he was very generous with them.”

James and his cousin believe that Warhol did indeed gift Bugarin the Elizabeth Taylor portrait. The brothers went on to describe their cousin, Donald Warhola – the individual responsible for filing the lawsuit on behalf of the foundation – as a “puppet” being used by the organisation. But the foundation stands by their claim that the painting was stolen by Burgarin and is therefore unsalable.

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