A bronze bust of soccer legend Pelé sculpted by renowned St. Louis artist Harry Weber now greets all entrants to the Academy’s American Sport Art Museum & Archives (ASAMA).
The smiling image of Pelé is a duplicate of the one Weber, the Academy’s 2011 Sport Artist of the Year, created for Gabon and that is now featured in the VIP section of the West Africa nation’s new national stadium in its capital city, Libreville.
Pelé was on hand for the unveiling of the sculpture as part of the Feb. 9 dedication of Gabon’s new 40,000-seat Friendship Stadium during the African soccer championships. A photograph of “King Pelé” kissing the bust of him on the cheek circulated in newspapers around the globe after the ceremony.
Fairhope, Ala., artist Bruce Larsen, the 2009 Sport Artist of the Year, constructed a pedestal for the bust that was installed by the Academy’s Matthew Cope and Robert Kline.
Weber’s sculptures of famous sports figures are prominent features at more than a dozen different professional and college stadiums, including Busch Stadium in St. Louis. He has installed monumental works in 12 different states and the Bahamas.
As part of the Gabon stadium dedication, works by two other Academy Sports Artists of the Year were featured.
- A multi-dimensional acrylic sculpture that features Pelé executing his famous bicycle kick was created by Sergey Eylanbekov, the 2004 Sport Artist of the Year from New York City. Pelé was given the sculpture by Gabon President Ali Bongo and Pelé took it back to Brazil, where he has plans to place it near the entrance of his museum.
- A painting depicting Pelé dribbling the soccer ball down field was done by painter Stephen Holland, the 1993 Sport Artist of the Year from Hollywood, Calif. This piece is signed by Pelé and will be displayed in the Pelé Room at the VIP entrance to the new stadium.