If it’s true that all’s fair in love and war, then it’s the share of the spoils after death and divorce that cause the most problems.
When Charlie’s Angels actress Farrah Fawcett died in June 2009, her will donated all of her art collection to the University of Texas—her old alma mater where she had studied before becoming an actress. Amongst Farrah’s treasured possessions was a portrait painted by Andy Warhol in 1980. This was in fact one of two paintings Warhol had made of the actress—the second was very soon to become the focus of a trial between the University of Texas and Fawcett’s ex-lover, the actor Ryan O’Neal.
O’Neal’s claim to the second painting rested on his testimony that he had first introduced Farrah to Warhol and had asked him to paint Fawcett’s portrait. He also claimed he had asked Warhol to make a second portrait so he and Farrah could have one each.
Andy Warhol shoots Farrah Fawcett.
In 1997, Fawcett split-up with O’Neal after she caught him in bed with another woman. O’Neal kept his portrait of Farrah above his bed, but as his girlfriends found the picture a tad off-putting, he asked Fawcett to hold on to it for him.
This Fawcett did until her death, when O’Neal removed the 40-inch by 40-inch silkscreen from her house. This action led to a trial between O’Neal and the University in December 2013 as to who was the rightful owner of the Warhol painting.
During the trial lawyers acting on behalf of the University of Texas attempted to discredit O’Neal’s story by using an edition ABC’s 20/20 where Fawcett is apparently seen asking Warhol to paint her portrait and is later filmed by the ABC news crew as Warhol snaps thirty Polaroid pictures of the actress in preparation for making the portrait.
O’Neal did not dispute that one of the Warhol’s belonged to his former long-term partner, it was the second painting that he claimed was his. Without any evidence to dispute this claim, the University were unlikely to win the case. O’Neal upped the ante by telling the jury he spoke to Farrah’s portrait every day:
“I talk to it. I talk to her. It’s her presence in my life and her son’s life. We lost her. It would seem a crime to lose it.”
O’Neal was on an operating table having a skin cancer removed when he heard the jury’s verdict that he was the rightful owner of the painting by nine jurors to three. Though the painting has an estimated worth of $12 million, O’Neal said he would never sell the picture as it meant too much to him, and it will be handed-down to their son Redmond after he dies.
This is that episode of 20/20 which featured so prominently in the trial. Originally made as a profile of Andy Warhol this short documentary does give some insight into the pop artist’s working techniques and has some typically Warholian moments.
Part II after the jump…