O’Neal counter-sues UT over Warhol portrait

John Farey

The former lover of 1970s star Farrah Fawcett is counter-suing the UT System Board of Regents, claiming he is being publicly bullied into surrendering an Andy Warhol portrait of the actress.

Fawcett attended UT in the late 1960s before dropping out to pursue an acting career. Attorneys for Ryan O’Neal, the Golden Globe- and Academy Award-nominated actor, filed a counter-suit in the county court of Los Angeles on Oct. 7, according to newly released court documents.

Following Fawcett’s death on June 25, 2009, the University obtained several works of art from Fawcett’s personal trust in 2010. O’Neal contests whether all the items were Fawcett’s to donate.

“Among the items removed from Ms. Fawcett’s home and received by the University, however, was artwork that did not exclusively belong to Ms. Fawcett but was jointly owned by O’Neal and Ms. Fawcett,” the lawsuit stated.

O’Neal is currently the subject of a lawsuit initiated by the Board of Regents following the revelation that he is in possession of a second identical Warhol portrait. The Board could not be reached for comment. The BBC has reported that each of the silkscreened portraits, made by Warhol in 1980, are worth up to $30 million.

“The University of Texas is a multi-billion dollar entity,” the lawsuit stated. “[UT] continues to use its publicly-funded financial resources to bully and harass [Ryan O’Neal].”

The statement goes on to suggest that UT has fed information to tabloid media in an attempt to shift public opinion away from O’Neal. O’Neal is seeking unspecified damages and the return of the first portrait, which resides in the Blanton Museum of Art. The painting was retired from display on Sept. 4 of this year.

The lawsuit characterizes Fawcett and O’Neal’s relationship as “extremely close but sometimes tumultuous,” detailing several occasions when Fawcett would remove personal items, including artwork, from O’Neal’s home over 30 years as they lived together “on and off again.”

O’Neal introduced Fawcett to Warhol in 1980. Prior to his death in 1987, the iconic pop artist painted for them several times both together and separately, the documents state.

Fawcett herself suggested that “two, possibly three” of the paintings existed during a 2004 documentary on her highly prized pop memorabilia collection.

Printed on Monday, October 17, 2011 as: Actor refuses to surrender Warhol pieces to art museum