Jury sides with O’Neal, he keeps Warhol por­trait

Winnipeg Free Press - Section G - - ENTERTAINMENT - By An­thony Mc­Cart­ney

LOS AN­GE­LES — For most of the last 33 years, an Andy Warhol por­trait of Far­rah Fawcett has hung in the home of her long­time lover, Ryan O’Neal, and a jury’s verdict en­sures that is where it will stay. For nearly a month, O’Neal has been in a court­room as lawyers for the Univer­sity of Texas at Austin sought to gain pos­ses­sion of the por­trait, ar­gu­ing that Fawcett be­queathed the art­work to the school upon her death. O’Neal fought back and tes­ti­fied last week that the por­trait was his clos­est re­main­ing con­nec­tion to Fawcett, who died in 2009. The ac­tor’s de­scrip­tions of talk­ing to the por­trait and feel­ing the pres­ence of the Char­lie’s An­gels ac­tress were among the last words that ju­rors fo­cused on, ask­ing to hear his tes­ti­mony again Thurs­day morn­ing. Within 90 min­utes of re­view­ing the tes­ti­mony Thurs­day, the panel re­turned a 9-3 verdict in favour of O’Neal. The ac­tor wasn’t present for the jury’s de­ci­sion, but his sons Pa­trick and Red­mond O’Neal clasped hands and hugged af­ter hear­ing the re­sult. Pa­trick O’Neal said he spoke to his fa­ther and “he was very happy.” The ac­tor’s at­tor­ney said O’Neal was hav­ing a med­i­cal pro­ce­dure and that’s why he wasn’t in court Thurs­day. The art­work is valu­able, with ex­perts es­ti­mat­ing it is worth be­tween $800,000 and $12 mil­lion. Ryan O’Neal, how­ever, told ju­rors he had no in­ten­tion of sell­ing it and wanted to pass it down to his only son with Fawcett, Red­mond. Fawcett left all her art­work, in­clud­ing a nearly iden­ti­cal Warhol por­trait, to her alma mater. The model-ac­tress left noth­ing to O’Neal, who was her com­pan­ion for nearly 30 years. Within days of Fawcett’s death, O’Neal took one of two portraits of the ac­tress that Warhol cre­ated in 1980 from her con­do­minium. O’Neal had the per­mis­sion of the trus­tee of Fawcett’s be­long­ings and tes­ti­fied the por­trait was a gift from Warhol for ar­rang­ing the artist’s por­trait ses­sion. Univer­sity lawyers at­tempted to dis­credit O’Neal’s own­er­ship claims with footage from Fawcett’s re­al­ity show and a 20/20 TV seg­ment doc­u­ment­ing the portraits’ cre­ation.

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