There’s a famous photo of Brazilian footie legend Pelé (nee Edson Arantes do Nascimento) giving fellow living legend and world’s greatest boxer Muhammad Ali a friendly peck on the cheek. Ali stepped onto the field at the Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J. to embrace Pelé in his final game with the New York Cosmos and the final game of his career as a player.
That photo forms the basis of “Lovers of Pele,” (Pelé Beijoqueiro) a street art series by 35 year-old artist Luis Bueno. To date, Bueno has wheat-pasted images of Pele embracing cultural icons such as Bob Marley, Marilyn Monroe, fellow Brazilian star Neymar Jr., C-3PO, and, most recently, David Bowie on various streets in Sao Paulo.
“The idea is to promote a meeting of cultures,” says Bueno in an interview with Otempo. “Pelé is a great symbol of Brazilian culture and I wanted to put him in the same space as other large, fantastic characters. The Mona Lisa is a great symbol of Western art. [Salvador] Allende and [Pablo] Neruda are significant local characters and Pelé carries many cultural traits.”
Bueno, who is currently a professor at the Istituto di Design Eurupeo in São Paulo, saw the original photo of Pelé and Ali six years ago thanks to a friend. He’s retouched that photo with various cultural icons ever since, thanks to the technical magic of the internet, Photoshop, and the public nature of wheatpaste.
“I have a passion for street art,” he explains in Otempo. “Traditional art, the type that’s framed, has no contact with the public. We have great museums in São Paulo, but proportionately there are few people who attend them. Urban art has the ability to relate, to provoke, to reach the public.”
Bueno is planning on installing a new piece in New York next year featuring Pelé embracing Martin Luther King Jr.