Farrah Fawcett's Warhol painting at center of Ryan O'Neal legal dispute

Ryan O'Neal, left, and Farrah Fawcett
Actors Ryan O'Neal, left, and Farrah Fawcett are shown at the premiere of the film. "Chances Are," in New York on March 5, 1989. (AP Photo/Ray Stubblebine, file)
AP Photo/Ray Stubblebine, file

In Dallas on Friday, mementos from the late Farrah Fawcett will go up for auction. But one item won't be up for bid: A valuable painting of the actress that is at the center of a legal battle.

The case pits her former partner, Ryan O'Neal, against a powerful university.

O'Neal left the Los Angeles courthouse after another day of battling to keep an Andy Warhol painting of his one-time companion, Farrah Fawcett. The painting was seen hanging in O'Neal's bedroom in his recent reality show. It's one of two nearly identical portraits of Fawcett that Warhol painted in 1980.

O'Neal's attorney, Marty Singer, said, "For the first 18 years, they each had a portrait in their home, and then between 2001 and 2006 -- before she was diagnosed with cancer -- that portrait went back and forth."

When Fawcett died of cancer in 2009, she left her art collection to the University of Texas, which now has one of the Warhol portraits and is suing O'Neal for the other one.

David Beck, attorney for University of Texas, said, "Both of those Warhol paintings were in her condominium at the time of her death and they were in there for years prior to the time of her death. It ought to go to the University of Texas because it was part of her living trust."

Fawcett became a star in the 1970s hit TV show "Charlie's Angels." O'Neal was famous as the handsome lead in the heartbreaking 1970 movie, "Love Story."  Fawcett and O'Neal's own love story was turbulent.

Asked if that love story played a role in how this battle developed, Beck said, "Well, there obviously had some effect on Farrah because she didn't even mention Ryan O'Neal in her living trust. Not a word, not even an ashtray, did she give to Ryan O'Neal."

O'Neal admits he took the painting from Fawcett's home soon after her death, but he insists it always belonged to him. The University of Texas says Fawcett herself took out insurance on the painting, which she renewed weeks before her death.

O'Neal lawyer Marty Singer said, "For the first 23 years, it was only insured by Ryan. When it was located at her condominium for the most part, that's when it was insured."

The university points to a scene from the reality show "Chasing Farrah," in which the actress talks about both paintings. On the show, Fawcett is asked how many paintings Warhol made of her. She replied, "Uh, 2. Well he made probably 3. I don't know. I have two. I have one in my place. It would be stupid to have 2." 

O'Neal's attorneys say the reality show does not reflect the reality. Singer said, "Ryan O'Neal has made it clear he's not going to sell this portrait, he's going to give it to his son. And that his son can decide what to do with it."

Even the value of the portrait is disputed. The university says its worth $12 million. O'Neal says it has been appraised at $900,000.