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Warhol’s Fawcett paintings not quite out of the news yet

Whither the Warhols?

Artist and trend setter Andy Warhol likely perceived that two select paintings he did of another iconic individual back in 1980 would still command great attention nearly four decades later. It is unlikely, though, that he could remotely envision why.

The spotlight on two Warhol paintings of Farrah Fawcett might reasonably come with an attached query, namely this: Who owns them?

That question is still centrally on the minds of many people, even though a jury weighed in definitively on the point back in 2013. Following is some relevant background concerning the portraits.

First, Fawcett bequeathed her artwork to the college she once attended. The University of Texas is specifically entitled to receive it pursuant to the terms of her will.

The school did in fact get one of the portraits.

But not the other, which Fawcett’s long-time partner and fellow actor Ryan O’Neal has steadfastly claimed belongs to him. In fact, the jury saw it that way, being convinced by O’Neal’s argument that Warhol gave him one of the paintings to own and that, ergo, it was never Fawcett’s property to bequeath.

Reportedly, O’Neal now seeks to sell the painting, which could fetch close to $20 million -- or far more. Fawcett’s alma mater has asserted rights to it based on the bequest in her will. However, and as noted above, that argument is not backed by any specific reference to the paintings in the will, and is coupled with the fact that O’Neal has always possessed the portrait.

There is unquestionably an instructive takeaway point to be noted from the story, and it is this: If property is important/valuable and likely to feature in an estate disposition, it should be specifically referenced and accurately identified in a will.

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