The Legal War over "Warhol"... Painting Ignites a Feud
October 27, 2014
"GOOD ARTISTS COPY, GREAT ARTISTS STEAL."
The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts filed a lawsuit in a New Jersey Supreme Court against Warhol's former bodyguard, Agusto Bugarin for allegedly stealing a Warhol painting. The foundation also alleges that Bugarin hid the painting for more than 30 years. In addition, the lawsuit avers that Bugarin is a "patient thief" who stole the work in 1984 and is currently attempting to sell it "after everyone he thought could challenge his ownership of the work had died."
Andy Warhol died in 1987 and was 58 years old. He had employed Bugarin as a bodyguard in the 1980s. Bugarin is described in Victor Bockris' biography of Warhol as a "trusted bodyguard" who was a brother of the artist's maids. The Foundation was established by the artist's will to hold his artworks.
Bugarin claims that Warhol had given him the painting of Elizabeth Taylor created in 1964, which is entitled "Liz." He contends that the painting was given in return for his services for helping Warhol renovate an apartment and assisting with several works of art. The painting is a 42.5 inch-by 44.25 inch painting of well known actress, Elizabeth Taylor. She was one of Warhol's earliest and most frequent subjects. Silkscreens of the actress was one of the pieces of art being shown at one of Warhol's first shows at the Contemporary Arts Center in Cincinnati in 1963. Currently, a rarely seen silkscreen of Taylor is estimated at about $30 million and will lead an auction of Warhol's portraits at Sotheby's in New York next month.
The Foundation maintains that Bugarin is "a liar and a thief" and that there is "the no indication that Warhol did or would have given his bodyguard a painting valued at the time in the hundreds of thousands of dollars -- several multiples of Bugarin's annual salary." Bugarin was hired by Warhol's estate after his death and later fired after returning four of the artist's works he'd stolen, with the exception of "Liz."
Attorneys for the Foundation stated that the goal of the lawsuit is "to prevent a thief and his gallery partner from profiting in stolen goods that would otherwise be used in furtherance of the foundation's charitable mission." plaintiff's attorney Luke Nikas of Boies Schiller & Flexner LLP said in a
Bugarin is currently working with the Taglialatella Galleries in Manhattan to sell "Liz." Taglialatella specializes in contemporary art and has displayed 12 Warhol canvases at an exhibition that ended this month. Bugarin allegedly brought "Liz" to New York and the gallery accepted it on consignment and began marketing it to potential buyers.
Bugarin and the gallery have refused to return the painting. Taglialatella and Bugarin intend to sell it as soon as possible. However, Justice Cynthia Kern in Manhattan signed an order blocking the painting from being moved or sold pending a hearing on Nov. 5, 2014.
The case is Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts v. Bugarin, 160437/2014, New York State Supreme Court, New York County (Manhattan).