Potsdam – Eva-Maria Henschkowski comes from the theater. You studied architecture and scenography, and then became a lighting designer through post-graduate studies. These are the ones who know most about the physics of architects and the art of engineers. They design lighting concepts for entire cities, or just apartments, depending on the demand. The Barberini Museum asked Eva-Maria Henschkowski.
She has been with the museum since it opened in 2017. But she never let go of the theater. Because you work for the theater at the same time, but above all because you think of the museum space as a stage. The curators determine the dramaturgy, but it is she who makes them.
The goal is to help each painting achieve its best possible appearance. Make the invisible shine and make sure the eye catchers don’t shine too much. It ensures play and harmony between the works, which arrive as divas from all over the world, often with large sums insured in their luggage.
The ghosts of the paintings are already there
A good week before the opening of the “Impressionism in Russia” exhibition he is in an empty room on the ground floor of the Barberini Museum. But what does it mean here empty: the ghosts of the paintings are already there. Bright spots can be seen on the walls where they will soon hang. Placeholder for artworks: promises, if you like. When the paintings are there, you can see if they will be redeemed. Eva-Maria Henschkowski says she knows that her work is finished “when the works of art are alive”. The biggest danger here: “The one beyond the stages.” It falsifies the character of the work.
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If you look closely, you can see that the reflectors marking the images differ slightly in color. Every single position of the light is precisely adapted to the needs of the future image. A specific key comes from the lenders: they determine the amount of lux that the work in question can tolerate, with what illuminance it can be illuminated.
Most important companion: the “tea cart”
This has nothing to do with color – “warm” or “cold” – it is measured in Kelvin and is at the discretion of Eva-Maria Henschkowski. “Lux describes the amount of light that hits the image.” The more sensitive a work is, the stricter and lower the specified lux value is. In the Van Gogh show, it was sometimes not allowed to exceed 45 lux. Gerhard Richter’s has been the brightest so far: 200 lux. The current exhibition is somewhere in between.
The most important companion of his work at the Barberini Museum is his “tea cart”. This is what Eva-Maria Henschkowski calls a mobile worktop on wheels that can move from room to room. Always there on the tea trolley: various interchangeable lenses for the spotlights, a lux meter to check the illuminance and two computers. One belongs to the museum, one to her.
Image-accurate lighting concept
The Barberini computer is equipped with software that controls all lighting via “Dali”, a lighting control protocol. It’s just a slim laptop, yet this is where the heart of the lighting system beats. From here you can check the lighting conditions of the entire museum. Henschkowski shows how it’s done: after a few clicks, the sun seems to rise suddenly.
On the second laptop, his own, he programmed the lighting concept for the display with precision of the frame. Created floor plans, created long lists. The Barberini Museum has over 500 spotlights, of which about 200 are in use for the current exhibition. In addition, there are the so-called bays of light: they ensure indirect lighting of the ceiling, making the room appear high and bright. While the spotlights make the artwork sparkle, the bays of light on the ceiling determine the basic brightness of the room. And even if a lot happens digitally: another essential aid in Henschkowski’s work is the “genius” – a riser with which you can reach ceilings almost seven meters high.
When everything is clear and she has covered the entire exhibition with the curators, Eva-Maria Henschkowski saves the light scenes on Barberini’s computer and hands her composition over to the internal technicians. Mrs. Henschkowski, isn’t lighting design also art? Oh, she says she. But the artistic sensibility, you need it.
The Barberini Museum is Potsdam’s most visited cultural institution. With first-rate exhibits, it draws audiences from across the country and beyond. But what conceptual, technical and logistical challenges must actually be overcome when preparing a show? The PNN accompany the conversion for the exhibition “Impressionism in Russia. Departure for the avant-garde “and present the people involved – an insight into the art behind art.
Part 1: Director and curator of the Ortrud Westheimer museum
Part 2: Master painter Frank Herber
Part 3: Mediation and support program with Achim Klapp, Andrea Schmidt and Julia Teller
Part 4: House technician Carsten Loeper
Part 5: Registrars Anne Barz and Matthias Heitbrink
Part 6: Guest Management with Dorothee Entrup and Angela Winkler