Monday 19 February 2018

Ryan O'Neill 'stole Andy Warhol portrait of his former partner Farrah Fawcett', court told

Ryan O'Neal, left, and Farrah Fawcett at the premiere of the film Chances Are in New York in 1989 (AP)
Ryan O'Neal, left, and Farrah Fawcett at the premiere of the film Chances Are in New York in 1989 (AP)

A reality television producer has told a Los Angeles jury he believes actor Ryan O'Neal stole an Andy Warhol portrait of his former partner Farrah Fawcett.

Craig Nevius said he formed his opinion based on conversations with the late actress and seeing the disputed Warhol portrait, done in 1980, in her home in the final years of her life.

The producer informed the University of Texas at Austin of his concerns and the school sued Love Story star O'Neal to gain possession of the artwork.

The university claims in its lawsuit that Fawcett left the painting to the school as part of a donation but O'Neal took it from her condominium days after her death in 2009.

Mr Nevius also said he saw documents regarding ownership that Fawcett had signed when she loaned the portrait and a twin version also done by Warhol to a museum.

"I believe he stole it," he said about O'Neal. "I believe she owned it."

O'Neal's lawyer attacked the credibility of Mr Nevius, noting the producer had been removed from a leadership position on a documentary about Fawcett's battle with cancer and had been involved in several lawsuits against O'Neal.

O'Neal says he had permission from the trustee of Fawcett's estate to remove the artwork and it was a gift from Warhol for helping to set up the portrait session with the Charlie's Angels star.

"The painting is mine," O'Neal previously told jurors.

Mr Nevius acknowledged that he never heard Fawcett say she owed both portraits, which she hung in her condominium in her final years.

He also said he was unaware that O'Neal had been granted permission to take the artwork when Mr Nevius began lobbying the university to pursue a criminal case against the actor.

The university displays its version of the portrait in its Blanton Museum of Art and wants the second piece to display by its side.

O'Neal's lawyer Marty Singer questioned Mr Nevius about his campaign against the actor, which included an attempt to get the California attorney general and Internal Revenue Service to classify the Warhol painting held by him to be part of Fawcett's estate. Both efforts were unsuccessful, Mr Singer said.

O'Neal has sued Mr Nevius for defamation in a separate case that is pending.

Mr Nevius told the court he believed O'Neal and others close to Fawcett conspired to remove him from a documentary project that NBC showed on her fight with cancer.

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