LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Actor Ryan O’Neal will be allowed to keep a portrait of his late and longtime partner Farrah Fawcett painted by famed artist Andy Warhol after a jury deemed him the rightful owner on Thursday in a dispute with the University of Texas.
The Austin-based university sued O’Neal over the ownership of the 1980 Warhol in 2011, after the “Charlie’s Angels” star bequeathed her art collection to her alma mater before her death in 2009.
That collection now in university hands includes a similar portrait of Fawcett - with her signature cascading tresses - painted by Warhol at the same time. The university said in court that Fawcett had wanted the school to have both portraits.
The jury ruled 9-3 in O’Neal’s favor at the Los Angeles Superior Court, a spokeswoman said, after two days of deliberation.
The university said it was disappointed that the jury “saw the evidence in a different way.”
“We sought the second Warhol portrait of Farrah Fawcett only because we wanted to honor her legacy,” the school said in a statement. “In her living trust she left ‘all of her artwork and art objects’ to the University of Texas, and we thought it important to try to enforce her intent.”
The contested portrait hangs in O’Neal’s bedroom in his Malibu house and was discovered by the university after it showed up in an episode of a reality show starring O’Neal.
A Hollywood golden couple, O’Neal and Fawcett never married, but they had an off-and-on relationship that spanned three decades and produced a son. They rekindled their relationship shortly before her death from cancer at the age 62.
In testimony in court, the 72-year-old O’Neal maintained that Warhol was a friend and had given him the portrait and that Fawcett and her friends acknowledged his ownership.
Fawcett’s “Charlie’s Angels” co-star Jaclyn Smith also testified in favor of O’Neal, saying that she knew that was what Fawcett would have wanted.
O’Neal’s lawyer said in court that the portrait by Warhol, a pioneer of pop art who died in 1987 at the age of 58, was worth about $800,000 to $1 million. The appraiser hired by the university and who testified in the case put its value at an estimated $12 million.
Reporting Eric Kelsey; Writing by Mary Milliken; Editing by Cynthia Osterman and Lisa Shumaker