O’Neal gets to keep his ‘Angel,’ settling suit over Warhol portrait

McClatchy Washington BureauJune 6, 2014 


An Andy Warhol portrait of Farrah Fawcett.


— Ryan O’Neal finally has Farrah Fawcett for keeps.

The actor and on-off-again lover of ’70s siren Fawcett has settled a contentious lawsuit with the University of Texas at Austin over a portrait of the late actress by pop icon Andy Warhol and a drawing on a cloth napkin also inscribed by the artist.

After nearly three years of litigation and more than $1 million in costs, the university has quietly dropped its appeal and settled a lawsuit with O’Neal, conceding a Los Angeles jury’s December ruling that he owned the portrait of Fawcett.

The napkin drawing, which the Los Angeles County Superior Court jury determined to be owned equally by O’Neal and the university, will be sold at auction according to the agreement, with proceeds split between them.

The agreement was reached May 7 but became known only Friday after McClatchy filed a Texas open records request this week.

It is, effectively, a total victory for O’Neal, who’ll get $25,000 in court costs from the university as part of the agreement. He gave emotional testimony at the three-week trial in Los Angeles County Superior Court, saying he talks to the painting, which hangs over his bed at his Malibu home, and that he wanted to keep it for his and Fawcett’s son, Redmond O’Neal. The actors never married, but were together for many years.

Fawcett, a Texas beauty from Corpus Christi, attended the University of Texas at Austin in the 1960s before moving to Hollywood to pursue a modeling and acting career. A star of the popular ’70s television show “Charlie’s Angels,” Fawcett died of cancer in 2009 and left all her artwork to the institution in her living trust.

Her love for the university was part of the reason the school fought so hard for the artwork, even though there were two nearly identical Warhol portraits of Fawcett and the university already had one of them.

“We worked hard to honor the wishes of our donor and will always seek to honor donors’ wishes,” Gary Susswein, spokesman for the University of Texas at Austin, told McClatchy. “In so doing, we also sought to secure a piece of art that has cultural significance and is valuable in our academic, educational and outreach missions. At this point in time, though, this agreement is the appropriate resolution.”

O’Neal’s attorney, Marty Singer, didn’t respond to a request for comment.

The napkin, held by the university, shows split hearts with the inscriptions “to Farrah F. and Ryan O.” and in a corner, a heart with the words “Houston Texas” in it. (They were at a dinner in Houston when Warhol grabbed a napkin and drew on it.) It’s signed, “Andy Warhol.”

During the trial, experts for the university valued the napkin at $3,500. Susswein said there was no date yet for an auction for the framed 20” x 20” napkin. The colorful portrait of Fawcett, which shows her with bright green eyes and eye shadow and red, red lips, was valued at $12 million. But both may well be worth more after the publicity from the trial.

“I think there’s a really keen interest in anything done by Warhol,” said Nadine Granoff, a Washington-based appraiser with Art Experts Inc. And the trial helps. “It’s keeping the brand in the public eye. He was always about the brand.”

Douglas Hunt, a New York senior analyst with Art Experts Inc., said, “Warhol continues to be one of the biggest auction draws.”

The pop artist, who died in 1987, is also popular with the public.

The university’s portrait of Fawcett isn’t currently on display at its Blanton Museum of Art, although it’s attracted visitors when it has been.

“It is a significant piece of 20th-century artwork and an important part of our collection that will undoubtedly be displayed again in the future,” said Susswein.

Adding to the attraction is the enduring popularity of Fawcett herself.

Email: mrecio@mcclatchydc.com; Twitter: @maria_e_recio.

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