O'Neal describes fondness for disputed Warhol art

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By ANTHONY McCARTNEY, Associated Press

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Ryan O'Neal told a jury that an Andy Warhol portrait of Farrah Fawcett that hangs in his home is one of his deepest connections to his longtime partner and that he does not believe he should have to hand it over to the actress' alma mater.

The University of Texas at Austin is suing O'Neal to try to gain possession of the portrait. Fawcett left all her artwork to the school and it claims O'Neal improperly took it from her condo days after her death.

The Oscar-nominated actor took the stand for the second time in the trial to assert his ownership of the portrait and why it's important for him to keep it.

"I talk to it," O'Neal said. "I talk to her. It's her presence. Her presence in my life. In her son's life."

The actor's portion of the trial is drawing to a close, with jurors hearing for the past several days from some of Fawcett's closest friends. Each has said Fawcett told them that one of the Warhol portraits belonged to her and the other one was owned by O'Neal. They also recounted the same origin story artwork: Fawcett told them that O'Neal arranged for two portraits to be made, and both actors picked them up from Warhol's New York studio at the same time.

One of Fawcett's former caretakers, Maribel Avila, testified on Tuesday that the "Charlie's Angels" star told her that one of the Warhol portraits of her belonged to O'Neal.

Avila was allowed to testify about Fawcett's words despite coming forward with her story just days before opening statements began on Nov. 25. Avila saw a story in the New York Post about the case and contacted O'Neal's attorneys.

O'Neal told the same story about the portrait's origins on Wednesday, adding that his daughter Tatum O'Neal accompanied him to the photo shoot with Warhol.

The actor does not deny that he took one of the portraits from Fawcett's condominium in the days after her death, but said he was given permission by her estate's trustee. The artwork was kept in both his home and Fawcett's homes over the years.

He said he considers the portrait a family heirloom and he plans to leave it to his son with Fawcett, Redmond. Both treasure the portrait for its connection to Fawcett, O'Neal said.

"We lost her," he said. "It would seem a crime to lose it too."

Redmond O'Neal is expected to testify on Thursday.

Jurors will also hear from Karen McManus, a contemporary art appraisal expert who told the panel Wednesday that she estimates that O'Neal's portrait is worth $800,000 to $1 million. An expert for the university testified last week that the portrait was worth up to $12 million.

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Anthony McCartney can be reached at http://twitter.com/mccartneyAP

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