The Swansea public is about to have a ball with a piece of art that hasn’t been exhibited for around 30 years.
In the mid-1980s more than 100 pupils of the former Penlan Comprehensive School created a near-life-size sculpture of Diego Maradona in chicken wire and papier-mâché.
He was presented in his vibrant blue, white and black Argentina football kit and became part of the Glynn Vivian Art Gallery’s permanent collection.
Later that summer, the real Maradona inspired his country to win football’s World Cup.
Now the sculpture is about to go on show once again – and the hunt is on for the teenagers behind it.
Staff at the Swansea Council gallery want to reacquaint as many of the artists as possible with their sporting work of art, titled simply Maradona.
Robert Francis-Davies, the council’s cabinet member for investment, regeneration and tourism, said: “This will be a fun, unique and sociable way to help celebrate Swansea’s first 50 years as a city.
“I urge all those who remember helping to create this eye catching work to get in touch with the gallery.
“Those who do will be invited to the launch of the gallery’s Swansea Stories exhibition at which Maradona will be on show.”
The model, which stands 1.45m tall – around 20cm shorter than the real, thing – was created in summer 1986 when the player was at the height of his powers.
Weeks later the world fame of one of the greatest ever footballers become yet more pronounced when his country won the Fifa World Cup in Mexico. The tournament included a quarter-final win over England in which he scored twice – one from an unpenalised handball now known as the Hand of God goal, the other after a dazzling 60m run with the ball.
The model was displayed at the gallery until the late 1980s. It then went into storage there as its materials are fragile and there was a danger of it suffering damage. Maradona has not been shown publicly since – and staff are excited to have him on display again from late September.
The Glynn Vivian collection, with more than 2,000 artworks, dates back to the gallery’s pre-Great War founding collection and includes works from the 18th century to contemporary acquisitions.
Gallery curator Karen Mackinnon said: “This is Swansea’s collection – it’s art work that belongs to the people of Swansea and we want to celebrate it in all its forms in this special 50th anniversary year. Everyone is welcome to come and join us!
“Swansea Stories will exhibit an eclectic range of more than 300 artworks including fine art, favourite portraits, landscapes, films and sculpture. It will include portraits of the famous such as opera singer Adelina Patti and poet Vernon Watkins, workers, the coastline, industry, agriculture and war ravaged streets.
“World renowned artists such as Gwen John and Lucien Pissarro will be among those on show. It will be the largest selection of our permanent collection ever displayed in the gallery’s history.
“Maradona will be included because – alongside many other historical and contemporary works – it is one of those items which local people regularly ask about. Of course, they’re also always curious about our more traditional artworks such as those by Claude Monet, other impressionists and Barbara Hepworth.
“Our Swansea Stories exhibition will show many memorable pieces from our collection. There are items we can’t show for space reasons but there will be other opportunities to exhibit such works.
“The exhibition presents a unique portrait of the city including its changing landscape that has inspired artists for centuries.
“We’re excited about it because it celebrates art and culture in all its forms. We hope it will be a catalyst for people to tell us their own stories and I’m sure the papier-mâché Diego Maradona will be one of the stimuli. The story of Swansea should be told by the people from our own community.”
Swansea Stories, at the Glynn Vivian, is due to run from September 26 to March 15. Entry is free. If you were one of the Maradona artists please email Laura Gill at the gallery – Laura.Gill@swansea.gov.uk