Billie Jean King National Tennis Center - Arthur Ashe Commemorative Garden - Soul in Flight
The 14-foot statue honoring Arthur Ashe, created by Eric Fischl, was installed in 2000 in the Arthur Ashe Commemorative Garden at the main entrance of the National Tennis Center, sitting between Arthur Ashe Stadium and the Unisphere encircled by a wall with a quote from Ashe: "From what we get, we can make a living; what we give, however, makes a life."
The figure, which bears no resemblance to Ashe and is depicted in the nude has its left arm raised as if to serve a tennis ball, but holds just a stub of a racket in its right hand.
"I did not complete the tennis racket the figure holds because I wanted it to also act like a baton that gets passed on from one generation to the next: a symbol of hope and continuity," Fischl explained at the dedication.
"My ambition was to create a work in the tradition of heroic sculpture that, though not a likeness of Arthur Ashe, tries to express values that I associate with him and his good works," he said.
"I sought, through the gesture of a server, to express such things as power and grace, will and desire. I wanted the feeling of someone coming into their being through the sheer strength of their ambition."
"I wanted to give these attributes a human form and I wanted it to be uplifting; to give the viewer a soaring and transcendent feeling," the sculptor said. "I believe it had to be nude to give these values a timeless quality and to remind us that our immortality necessarily passes through the vulnerability of our flesh."