LOS ANGELES -- The University of Texas system and Ryan O'Neal are sparring over ownership of an Andy Warhol portrait of the actor's longtime companion, Farrah Fawcett.
The system's board of regents sued O'Neal in federal court in Los Angeles on Friday, asking a judge to order the Oscar-nominated actor to turn over the painting. The portrait is one of two that Warhol made of the "Charlie's Angels" star and the university claims the actress bequeathed it to their Austin, Texas campus.
O'Neal's spokesman Arnold Robinson blasted the lawsuit in a statement, saying the university has known for more than a year that the actor has painting. "This is completely ridiculous lawsuit," Robinson wrote.
"Ryan O'Neal's friendship with Andy Warhol began 10 years prior to his meeting Farrah Fawcett," Robinson wrote. "When Ryan introduced Andy to Farrah, Mr. Warhol chose to complete two portraits of her, one for Ms. Fawcett and one for Mr. O'Neal. Mr. O'Neal looks forward to being completely vindicated in the courts."
The university's lawsuit claims O'Neal may be holding onto other pieces from Fawcett's art collection that she wanted the university to have after her June 2009 death. Fawcett attended the University of Texas at Austin in the 1960s, according to the complaint.
"The enduring value and public interest in the Warhol portraits is a testament not only to Mr. Warhol's talent and artistry, but also to Ms. Fawcett's status as a cultural icon," the lawsuit states.
Warhol created the portraits in the 1980s and they were only publicly displayed once, the lawsuit states.
The University of Texas wants O'Neal to purchase insurance for the painting and properly preserve it so that it can be turned over to the university if the lawsuit succeeds. It also seeks undetermined financial damages from O'Neal, but states the Fawcett portrait is priceless.
"The Warhol portrait is an irreplaceable piece of art for which legal damages could not fully compensate," the lawsuit states.