Warhol Nephews Stir More Drama in Case of Liz Portrait

Andy Warhol, Liz (1963).
Photo: Getty Images.
Note: This is not the actual artwork in question mentioned in the article, it is one from the same series.

In October artnet News reported that the Andy Warhol Foundation filed a lawsuit against former Warhol bodyguard Agusto Bugarin for allegedly stealing a 1964 Liz painting (see “Warhol Foundation Slaps Former Bodyguard with Lawsuit“). Manhattan Supreme Court justice Cynthia Kern then blocked the painting from being sold.

Now more details about the painting, Bugarin, and his relationship with the Warhol (or Warhola) family have emerged. Courthouse News Service reports that even as the Warhol foundation acknowledges Bugarin stole the painting and waited decades to sell it off as potential challengers died, two of Warhol’s nephews, James and George Warhola, have come to Bugarin’s defense. The pair have no relationship to the foundation, and reportedly believe Bugarin to be innocent.

“It’s absolutely bizarre to me that Agusto is being portrayed as this grand thief,” James wrote. “I have to think that the foundation’s lawyers are lacking in firsthand knowledge of my uncle’s relationship with the Bugarin family. My uncle adored the Bugarin family and he was very generous with them.”

James and his cousin believe Warhol gave Bugarin the Elizabeth Taylor portrait as a gift. James even disputes the claim that he was simply Warhol’s bodyguard, despite the fact that the artists’s diary refers to him as such, stating instead that “My uncle was always joking…He always had a great sense of humor, and Agusto is a small guy.”

The brothers described their cousin, Donald Warhola, who was responsible for filing the lawsuit on behalf of the foundation as a “puppet” for the organization. The foundation, of course, stands by the claims that the painting is stolen and therefore unsalable.

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