Producer says he believes actor stole Warhol art
LOS ANGELES (AP) — A reality television producer told a jury on Wednesday that he believes actor Ryan O’Neal stole an Andy Warhol portrait of actress Farrah Fawcett done in 1980.
Witness Craig Nevius said he formed his opinion based on conversations with Fawcett and seeing the disputed Warhol portrait in the actress’ home in the final years of her life.
The producer informed the University of Texas at Austin of his concerns and the school sued 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 Fawcett’s condominium days after her death in 2009.
Nevius also testified that 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,” Nevius testified about O’Neal. “I believe she owned it.”
O’Neal’s attorney attacked the credibility of 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 contends it was a gift from Warhol for facilitating the portrait session with the “Charlie’s Angels” star.
“The painting is mine,” O’Neal previously told jurors.
Nevius acknowledged that he never heard Fawcett say she owed both portraits, which she hung in her condominium in the final years of her life.
He also said he was unaware that O’Neal had been granted permission to take the artwork when 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 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 the actor to be part of Fawcett’s estate. Both efforts were unsuccessful, Singer said.
O’Neal has sued Nevius for defamation in a separate case that is pending.
Nevius testified that he believes O’Neal and others close to Fawcett conspired to remove him from a documentary project that NBC aired on her fight with cancer. Fawcett died in June 2009.
Anthony McCartney can be reached at http://twitter.com/mccartneyAP