The Great Farrah Fawcett Art Caper Heads to Court

Jenny Depper
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A long-brewing debate over the ownership of an Andy Warhol portrait of Farrah Fawcett is finally going to trial in Los Angeles this week.

The dispute focuses on a painting in the possession of Fawcett's longtime partner, Ryan O'Neal, but the University of Texas claims to be the rightful owner of the priceless piece.

The Texas Board of Regents sued the "Love Story" actor on July 8, 2011, over one of two nearly identical paintings created in 1980 by the pop artist. O'Neal countersued and alleges that the painting belonged to him and was a gift from Warhol.

Fawcett, who died in 2009, left all of her artwork in a living trust to her alma mater, the University of Texas at Austin, and according to the lawsuit filed by the university, the collection should include this Warhol piece.

The controversial artwork, one of Warhol's signature silk-screen pop art styles, features the "Charlie's Angels" actress with full red lips, a piercing green-eyed gaze, and showcases her trademark coif. The piece is nearly identical to another Warhol portrait of Fawcett already hanging in the University's Blanton Museum of Art.

"The Warhol portrait is an irreplaceable piece of art for which legal damages could not fully compensate," the lawsuit states.

In a series of depositions, new characters have appeared, including one of Fawcett's former flames, complicating the ownership of the piece.

In O'Neal's deposition, he claims that the piece was "usually displayed" at his Malibu beach house, but he lent the portrait to Fawcett in 1997 after she caught him in bed with another woman, who disliked the piece.

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"And the reason I gave it to her is because there was a new woman in my life and the painting was making her uncomfortable; that Farrah seemed to be staring down at her," O'Neal said.

"And so I said, 'Well, I can fix that.' I took it to Farrah and said, 'Keep this for me. I'll be back.'" Adding, that the woman was a "funny girl."

"I think that's baloney," Houston attorney David Beck, lead counsel in the case for the University of Texas system, said in an interview. He plans to call on Fawcett's former college sweetheart and Longhorns quarterback Greg Lott, who was rumored to have a romantic relationship with Fawcett until her death.

"He is a coward and a liar," said Lott, who will testify that it was Fawcett's wish to bequeath all her artwork to her alma mater and that she never gave up ownership of either Warhol portrait.

The drama, which will play out in the courtroom on Wednesday, will also call on Fawcett and O'Neal's son, Redmond O'Neal, Fawcett's bestie Alana Stewart, and her "Charlie's Angels" co-star Jaclyn Smith for witness testimonies.

A-listers, secret love affairs, and an iconic painting — this sounds like the making of a major Hollywood movie.