Farrah Fawcett

I was shocked when I picked up a copy of today’s Daily Texan to read “UT System sues for Fawcett portrait.” What on earth are the spenders of our tax dollars thinking? How much are the legal proceedings going to cost? I was shocked again to see that UT is going after one of two paintings of Farrah Fawcett, and it is valued at $30 million! I asked myself, “Is it GREED, STUPIDITY or A CLEVER MARKETING PLOY?” Perhaps UT wants the painting so they can sell it for $30 million and pay for the new medical school instead of raising the taxes of ordinary citizens. What a clever ploy that would be. Somehow I cannot believe that is true. What other values might UT be acting on if not one of the ones I have suggested?

— Laurence A. Becker
1958 BA, Plan II 1965 MA, English

Fawcett attended the University during the late 1960s before dropping out to pursue an acting career.

The dispute over a $30 million portrait between the UT System and actor Ryan O’Neal was delayed Tuesday, further keeping the Andy Warhol portrait of late actress and former UT student Farrah Fawcett out of UT’s hands.

UT spokesperson Spencer Miller-Payne said the delay happened because the case preceding the UT system’s trial was not finished. He said the Los Angeles court scheduled a meeting between the case’s attorneys and judge before the trial for Feb. 27, at which time the UT System expects a new trail date to be set. The lawsuit was previously set to start Tuesday.

Upon her death in 2009, Fawcett bequeathed her entire art collection to the University of Texas at Austin. UT currently has one of two Warhol portraits of her, but O’Neal, who had a romantic relationship with Fawcett, has the other.

The UT System Board of Regents filed the lawsuit in a Los Angeles court on July 8, 2011, claiming the portrait belongs to the University, not O’Neal. The BBC has estimated the value of the portrait at $30 million.

“After her death, UT Austin received only one of Ms. Fawcett’s Warhol Portraits,” the lawsuit states. “Thereafter, UT Austin discovered that Mr. O’Neal had taken possession of the missing portrait.”

O’Neal claims the painting was given to him and was not Fawcett’s to give away, but the UT System is asking that O’Neal return the painting.

“The Warhol portrait is an irreplaceable piece of art for which legal damages could not fully compensate UT Austin if the portrait is lost or damaged during the pendency of this dispute,” the lawsuit states.

Fawcett attended the University during the late 1960s before dropping out to pursue an acting career.

Printed on Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2012 as: UT System sues for Fawcett portrait

Warhol print of Farrah Fawcett suspected found

Bright green eyes and pouty red lips grace actress Farrah Fawcett’s face in Andy Warhol’s portrait of the movie maiden. One of two original silkscreen and paint portraits hangs in the Blanton Museum after Fawcett willed her artwork to the University, her alma mater.

The other original Warhol silkscreen remains missing, but it may have been found this week.

ABC News showed footage of Ryan O’Neal’s reality show in which a portrait similar to the Blanton’s Warhol hangs above the bed of O’Neal, who is Fawcett’s former partner.

University and the Blanton Museum representatives refused to comment.

The portrait at the Blanton Museum will remain on display through Sept. 4.

The former lover of 1970s star Farrah Fawcett is counter-suing the UT System Board of Regents, claiming he is being publicly bullied into surrendering an Andy Warhol portrait of the actress.

Fawcett attended UT in the late 1960s before dropping out to pursue an acting career. Attorneys for Ryan O’Neal, the Golden Globe- and Academy Award-nominated actor, filed a counter-suit in the county court of Los Angeles on Oct. 7, according to newly released court documents.

Following Fawcett’s death on June 25, 2009, the University obtained several works of art from Fawcett’s personal trust in 2010. O’Neal contests whether all the items were Fawcett’s to donate.

“Among the items removed from Ms. Fawcett’s home and received by the University, however, was artwork that did not exclusively belong to Ms. Fawcett but was jointly owned by O’Neal and Ms. Fawcett,” the lawsuit stated.

O’Neal is currently the subject of a lawsuit initiated by the Board of Regents following the revelation that he is in possession of a second identical Warhol portrait. The Board could not be reached for comment. The BBC has reported that each of the silkscreened portraits, made by Warhol in 1980, are worth up to $30 million.

“The University of Texas is a multi-billion dollar entity,” the lawsuit stated. “[UT] continues to use its publicly-funded financial resources to bully and harass [Ryan O’Neal].”

The statement goes on to suggest that UT has fed information to tabloid media in an attempt to shift public opinion away from O’Neal. O’Neal is seeking unspecified damages and the return of the first portrait, which resides in the Blanton Museum of Art. The painting was retired from display on Sept. 4 of this year.

The lawsuit characterizes Fawcett and O’Neal’s relationship as “extremely close but sometimes tumultuous,” detailing several occasions when Fawcett would remove personal items, including artwork, from O’Neal’s home over 30 years as they lived together “on and off again.”

O’Neal introduced Fawcett to Warhol in 1980. Prior to his death in 1987, the iconic pop artist painted for them several times both together and separately, the documents state.

Fawcett herself suggested that “two, possibly three” of the paintings existed during a 2004 documentary on her highly prized pop memorabilia collection.

Printed on Monday, October 17, 2011 as: Actor refuses to surrender Warhol pieces to art museum 

Last week, the world mourned the loss of Steve Jobs to pancreatic cancer. Unlike many other well-known figures, Jobs’ direct and indirect contributions to society are every bit tangible. He’s the reason the song “You’ve Got a Friend in Me” gets stuck in our head and, consequently, the reason we can pull out a 32-gigabyte testament to human ingenuity to listen to it over and over again. Jobs was an innovator, a visionary and, of course, a college dropout.

That didn’t stop Reed College, the destination of Jobs’ semester-long postsecondary rendezvous, to unveil an honoring of one of its “most visionary former students” on its website.

This kind of phenomenon takes place at UT as well. Last year, the Texas Exes — which, for that matter, does not limit its membership to alumni or even former UT attendees — revealed a list of Extraordinary Exes in celebration of its 125 years of existence. Longhorn legends such as Dell-founder Michael Dell, broadcaster Walter Cronkite, businessman Red McCombs, NBA star Kevin Durant, Olympic gold medalist Mary Lou Retton, Charlie’s Angels icon Farrah Fawcett, former Texas Lt. Gov. Ben Barnes and former U.S. Speaker of the House Sam Rayburn all fall short of being traditional alumni.

And this illustrates higher education’s dropout paradox: that a university’s poster children of success may be the same poster children that critics point to when those individuals are reduced to a number or a percentage of the “did not graduate” persuasion. While their achievements may be boundless, they stand equally degree-less.

Some may point to the paradox as a way to illustrate the insignificance of a university education. After all, it seems as though college was simply a roadblock on their paths to greatness. Yet this assumption misses the well-documented influence universities had on many of the aforementioned dropouts’ successes.

Jobs, in his famous commencement speech at Stanford in 2005, talked about how after dropping out, he stayed at Reed for another 18 months to audit classes. Without the shackles of prerequisites, he credited a calligraphy class he attended as the reason for the Macintosh’s revolutionizing “multiple typefaces and proportionally-spaced fonts.”

Dell and notable Harvard dropouts Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg launched their industry-transforming companies from their campus dorm rooms. According to his biography, “A Reporter’s Life,” Cronkite wrote for The Daily Texan and said his first time in front of a microphone was reciting sports scores for UT’s then-radio station, KTUT. Before becoming private investigator Jill Munroe for millions of ABC viewers in the late 1970s, Fawcett modeled for students and faculty at UT’s art department, which got her noticed by several publications. Durant led the Big 12 in points and rebounds in the 2006-07 basketball season that solidified his status as the second-overall pick in the 2007 NBA draft.

Though seemingly non-traditional, these situations simply illustrate what universities have always done best, which is to serve as resource centers for society. Universities serve as points of collaboration, boasting pockets of world-class expertise and resources in very specific areas.

However, what Texas’ recent higher education controversy has shown is the inherent difficulty in translating the intangible benefits of being a resource center into tangible, measurable outcomes. Having a premier conglomeration of top experts in the history of American foreign policy or housing the archives of David Foster Wallace are difficult to measure in dollar, cents and productivity hours.

This is at the root for the push to increase graduation rates. Institutions have significant administrative discretion to create policies that push students to graduate on time. Pledging to increase four- and six-year graduation rates is essentially an agreement between the University and the state that says, “We’ll promise to take care of this as long as you promise to leave us alone.”

The University’s real focus should be on finding avenues for students and the community to tap into and contribute to the institution’s rich resource centers. UT’s Intellectual Entrepreneurship Consortium is a leader in experimenting with creative programs to connect students to those resources, but it would require greater support for it to flourish. The Texas Center for Education Policy works to bridge the gap between community and academia but is more of an exception than the norm. Engagement initiatives like these would enhance and broaden the student experience at the University and better equip it on its mission to work for the betterment of society.

Jobs and his dropout colleagues listed above happened to tap into the university resources that changed their lives — as well as all of ours. Jobs finished his Stanford commencement speech by quoting the last words published in the Whole Earth Catalog: “stay hungry, stay foolish.” Students come into the university with both hunger and foolishness. Let’s not let that go to waste.

— Shabab Siddiqui for the editorial board. 

Patrons of the Blanton Museum stand near a painting by Andy Warhol depicting Farrah Fawcett. UT is currently embroiled in a legal battle concerning a second similar painting.

Photo Credit: Andrew Edmonson | Daily Texan Staff

The UT System is suing actor Ryan O’Neal for the wrongful possession of Andy Warhol‘s 1980 portrait of late former UT student Farrah Fawcett, saying the actress bequeathed her collection of art to UT.

The UT System Board of Regents filed the suit Friday at the Central District Court of California in Los Angeles asking O’Neal to transfer the portrait to UT Austin, according to the lawsuit.

In the early 1980s, artist Andy Warhol made two portraits of actress Farrah Fawcett and, according to the suit, gave them to her as gifts.

The portraits remained in Fawcett’s possession until her death on June 25, 2009. In her will, she donated all artwork and objects of art in her possession to UT.

After her death, UT received one of the two portraits, but the other was missing. The University recently learned O’Neal had taken possession of the missing painting.

Fawcett did not include O’Neal in her will, and any other artwork he may have taken from Fawcett’s collection lawfully belongs to UT, according to the suit. The two celebrities were friends and on-and-off lovers.

UT Austin claims more than $1 million in damages as a result of O’Neal’s actions, and requests he either transfer the portrait or pay the equivalent monetary compensation to the University. A recent BBC article estimates the painting may be worth up to $30 million.

“The Warhol portrait is an irreplaceable piece of art for which legal damages could not fully compensate UT Austin if the portrait is lost or damaged during the pendency of this dispute,” according to the lawsuit.

Although UT sources declined to comment on how the University found out about the portrait, ABC News showed footage of a Warhol portrait of Fawcett in O’Neal’s house on his reality show that aired last month.

The BBC article quoted a statement by Arnold Robinson, O’Neal’s spokesman, saying the suit was ridiculous and O’Neal expects to be vindicated in court.

Furthermore, Robinson’s statement said Warhol gave the portrait to O’Neal, and he knew the artist before meeting Fawcett.

UT System Vice Chancellor and General Counsel Barry Burgdorf declined to give comment outside of what was in the lawsuit.

The suit did not mention how the University confirmed O’Neal had the portrait or how the amount in damages was determined.

The Warhol portrait UT does have is currently on display at the Blanton Museum of Art, said museum spokeswoman Kathleen Brady-Stimpert.

Brady-Stimpert said the piece arrived at the museum in 2010 and has been part of a portraiture exhibit since April and is on display through Sept. 4.

She said the portrait is notable not only because it belonged to Fawcett, but because it is the work of pop artist Warhol, who was considered one of the great contemporary artists of his time.

“[The portrait] is very special for us to have because the late Farrah Fawcett was an alum of the University,” Brady-Stimpert said. “So we’re delighted to add a work of this caliber to our collection.”

Printed on 07/14/2011 as: UT sues actor for possession of portrait

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 the 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.