The death of the actor Ryan O’Neal, who passed away this week, continues to spark questions about the fate of his disputed Andy Warhol portrait of Farrah Fawcett. The painting of his late partner, who died in 2009, is still in his collection, seen hanging over his bed in his Malibu home. It was spotted in photos published by his daughter, Tatum O’Neal and his son, Patrick, on the occasion of his last birthday in April. The actor was diagnosed with Leukaemia in 2001 and prostate cancer in 2012, leading to speculations that it was one of these conditions that led to his death.
Despite Fawcett leaving her entire art collection to the University of Texas, her alma mater, a verdict was passed down to settle the heated dispute between O’Neal and the University. The US jury ruled that Warhol’s portrait of Fawcett belonged to O’Neal. This legal battle raged on for years, with several appeals filed by the University. O’Neal was given the green light to keep or sell the artwork. The portrait, created by Warhol in 1980, held great sentimental value for the actor, serving as a poignant reminder of his three-decade relationship with the late Charlie’s Angels star. The painting will now likely be sold to settle the actor’s estate, whose beneficiaries include Tatum, Patrick and Redmond, his only child with Fawcett.
O’Neal always maintained that a second portrait of his former partner was gifted to him directly by Warhol in gratitude for arranging the artist’s portrait session with Fawcett. The legal battle, which ensued, with attempts by University of Texas lawyers to undermine O’Neal’s ownership claims, utilising footage from O’neil’s reality show and a “20/20” television segment documenting the portraits’ whereabouts.
The case witnessed conflicting testimonies, with O’Neal asserting his ownership backed by friends of Fawcett, while the university presented documents and footage challenging O’Neal’s version of events. The legal saga finally concluded with the jury siding with O’Neal, securing his right to keep the prized artwork.
The Texas institution argued that Fawcett had bequeathed both paintings to them in her last will. Throughout the legal proceedings, details emerged about the turbulent relationship between O’Neal and Fawcett, including a poignant gesture where O’Neal gave the Warhol to Fawcett after their separation, only to retrieve it after her passing.
Reports in 2019 suggested that O’Neal was considering parting with the iconic portrait, initially offered to private buyers at $20 million and now allegedly marked down to $18 million.
Documentation accompanying the painting included an appraiser’s letter from March 2018, valuing the portrait between $21 million and $24 million. O’Neal’s willingness to sell raises questions about his evolving attachment to an artwork that has been a significant presence in his life and a symbol of his enduring connection to Farrah Fawcett.
History of the Portrait: A Timeline
The history of Andy Warhol’s portrait of Farrah Fawcett is intertwined with the complex relationship between the Pop artist, the celebrated actress, and actor Ryan O’Neal.
1980: Andy Warhol, a leading figure in the Pop art movement, created two portraits of Farrah Fawcett. The paintings capture Fawcett’s striking profile and vibrant energy, characteristic of Warhol’s timeless style.
1997: in a relationship with Fawcett, Ryan O’Neal is discovered cheating on her with another woman. The couple separates, and O’Neal, now involved with a new partner, gives his Warhol portrait to Fawcett to keep in her home. This decision is reportedly influenced by the discomfort that O’Neal’s new girlfriend feels with Fawcett’s gaze in the house.
2009: Farrah Fawcett passed away in June 2009. In her will, she bequeaths her art collection, including at least one of the Warhol portraits, to the University of Texas, her alma mater. However, her will does not mention the other portrait was owned by O’Neal.
2013: A legal battle ensues between Ryan O’Neal and the University of Texas over the ownership of the Warhol portrait. O’Neal claims that the artwork was a gift from Warhol for facilitating the portrait session. He wins possession of the picture, which O’Neal states is rightfully his.
2019: Reports surface that Ryan O’Neal was actively considering selling the Warhol portrait. Initially priced at $20 million, it is allegedly marked down to $18 million. Documentation accompanies the painting, including an appraiser’s letter from March 2018, valuing it between $21 million and $24 million. The actor previously stated that he would never sell the painting.
The history of this portrait reflects the intersection of art, personal relationships, and legal complexities. From its creation by Warhol in 1980 to the ongoing discussions about its ownership and potential sale, the portrait of Farrah Fawcett remains a notable piece in the broader narrative of art and celebrity connections.