Diego Maradona’s death last November marked a before and after in the lives of many Argentines. The case of the artist Maximiliano Bagnasco is a clear example.
“On November 25, when I turned on the TV and saw the news of his death, it shocked me a lot. I kept thinking and started painting it. I recorded the process and when I finished it I put: ‘Chao Diego. I also drew you the day you left, ‘”Maxi says during a telephone conversation with ESPN from Buenos Aires.
Maxi had drawn Maradona more than a hundred times since, at the age of 17, he decided to turn his passion for art into his profession. “I painted Maradona my whole life. As a teenager I even made a drawing of him with his daughters and I went to his house in Segurola and Havana to give it to him ”, he recalls with nostalgia.
This 39-year-old artist from Buenos Aires does not know what the Maradona family did with that gift, but fate would have it that decades later, the portrait of Maradona that Maxi painted on the day of the death of the soccer legend would serve to catapult his fame and career .
“I uploaded it to Instagram and people started reposting it. Within hours a producer from a television channel called me. They told me that they were going to do a tribute to Maradona on an important program and that they wanted to have a painting of him. When people saw him I began to receive calls from individuals and teams from all over Argentina to ask me for more paintings, “says this Argentine who, despite not considering himself a great soccer fan, does not hesitate to describe himself as Maradoniano:” I’m not a soccer fan, but Diego’s figure is the greatest in my country. It is what represents us the most and it inspired me ”.
That portrait that Maxi painted after Maradona’s death went around the world through social networks in just a few hours. The artist “has almost doubled his followers” on Instagram since that November 25 and his popularity has gone from having a local character to spreading across all continents.
“After painting the picture on television, the president of Argentino Juniors called me to make the image of the Maradona sanctuary. I asked Drei, a Colombian artist, for help, and suddenly we started to have a worldwide impact. They called from the Rai from Italy, from the media from China, from Venezuela. I started to see my name on the news in Portuguese, in Italian… ”, Maxi says with some disbelief. “I never imagined that they were going to ask me to be part of a project in Qatar or that they were going to call me from Germany or China.”
“After the Argentino Juniors Sanctuary we painted a couple more murals. We did one in the pool of a private house and within hours it was also touring the world. They started bombarding me with messages. Suddenly everyone wanted to have a Maradona mural in their home. We influence other people to do that, ”he explains.
El Patio de los Lecheros, a popular gastronomic space located in Buenos Aires, also contacted Maximiliano to take a walk in honor of Maradona.
“The idea was to paint 19 pictures and auction them for the benefit of a foundation yet to be defined. We did 18 in the workshop and the one last painting there. Since I published the first two images we had the press every day in my workshop. They began to publish news and from each news another news was born in another medium ”, recalls Maximiliano, who has wanted to portray Maradona at different moments of his life so that those who visit the Patio de los Lecheros can remember the real Diego for a few minutes.
“I wanted to select images that are not common in murals. I will have painted Diego 30 times since he left but I am not bored because in each one he has a different look ”, he says. Thus, the exhibition allows us to see a young and handsome Diego, dressed in the Argentine jersey at the 1979 Youth World Cup, but also an overweight Maradona with dyed blonde hair in Cuba.
In the short term, Maxi’s greatest challenge is to face the large number of demands that accumulate on him, while in the medium term he recognizes that, like a good Maradoniano, his dream is to be able to paint Diego in Naples.
“Many fans wrote to me from Naples. For me, one of the best things that can happen to me is going to paint Maradona in Naples. As an Argentine, going to paint there is like a dream, ”he concludes.