Jury sides with O’Neal, he keeps Warhol portrait
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.