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30 June 2011
For everything we've ever wanted to know about the Replica Workshop... Director Miguel Helfrich has the answers.
You have been the head of the Replica Workshop since autumn 2010. You switched from working for the high-street chain, Tchibo, to the National Museums in Berlin - that was quite a dramatic change, wasn't it? What motivated you to do so?
The Replica Workshop is a unique company with great potential. It is packed with wonderful stories just waiting to be untapped. These stories can of course be told, but also marketed. As a marketing expert, I see this as nothing short of a magnificent treasure that has to be unearthed. But its not just the marketing opportunities that excite me, but also the potential to continue the Replica Workshop's legacy as a three-dimensional archive and to play a part in the preservation of artworks under threat.
The Replica Workshop is the oldest institution at the National Museums in Berlin - what are your plans and visions for the future as far as it's concerned?
The long-term goal is to make the Replica Workshop one of the leading fine art manufacturers in Europe - and in particular in terms of quality, the range of art replicas on offer and the national or even international perception of what we offer. At the same time I aim to purposefully expand the Workshop's important role as a preserver of cultural heritage.
The Replica Workshop has customers from around the world - please give us a few examples of places outside Berlin where scholars and museum visitors profit from the work you do?
We get commissions from all over the world, including from many museums and specialist institutions. Our art replicas can be found, for example, in China, Brazil, the US, but also of course in nearly every country in Europe. In Germany alone last year we provided around 20 temporary exhibitions with art replicas.
What specific training must one complete to be able to work in a replica workshop?
The recognised professional occupation as a 'Kunstformer', or maker of fine-art replicas, no longer exists. That's why nowadays many staff come from related occupations and receive additional training at the workshop itself. This way we also nurture and retain certain skills that would otherwise fade into obscurity. The same goes for our wonderful sculpture painters, who also learn their craft with us here.
Is there such a thing as a best-seller in your line of work?
One of our favourite pieces is the painted bust of Nefertiti.
What is the smallest and the largest plaster cast that your staff have ever produced?
The largest cast was the 42-metre-high Column of Marcus Aurelius from Rome and the smallest was an Egyptian scarab the size of a fingernail.
How long does it take until a cast of the Nefertiti bust manages to approach the beauty of the original?
The production of the cast and the finer contouring takes about one and a half days. After that comes the painting, an intricate process with over 40 different colours, which takes about a week. The result is a masterpiece which most people could not tell apart from the original.
S-Bahn S41, S42, S46 (Westend)
Bus M45, 309 (Sophie-Charlotten-Straße); 139 (Königin-Elisabeth-Straße / Spandauer Damm)