An Andy Warhol painting is in the news. His portrait of Elizabeth Taylor is the subject of litigation between his foundation and his former “bodyguard”, Agusto Bugarin. The painting was expected to bring between $20 million and $30 million at an auction which has since been postponed. The “bodyguard” who stands 5’4″” and weighs 135 pounds, and was likely Warhol’s assistant, claims Warhol gave him the painting for his assistance in renovating a house. The foundation claims that Bugarin was really his bodyguard and has patiently waited for anyone with knowledge of the painting to die before attempting to sell it.
Several, actually five, quick points:
1. Gifts of assets without titles are difficult to prove/disprove. I frequently see this in disputes about jewelry in an estate and whether it was given while mom was alive or taken by one of the daughters after mom died.
2. Warhol died in 1987. 27 years is an incredibly long time for a man of limited financial resources to wait before trying to cash in on something he allegedly stole.
3. Warhol was known for giving away his away. Ask the University of Texas which lost its dispute with Ryan O’Neal over a portrait of Farrah Fawcett.
4. I agree with Warhol’s nephews who claim that Warhol was only joking when he referred to the 5’4″ Filipino Bugarin as his bodyguard. If I had a bodyguard, he would look like an NFL linebacker and only speak mono syllabic English language words. And then only occasionally.
5. I still do not understand the market for Warhol art. I would not pay $20, much less $20 million, for a picture of Elizabeth Taylor in which she resembles a drag queen.