In honour of Der Bomber
Sun, 10/09/23, 15:11
In September, the Gerd Müller monument will be unveiled in front of the Allianz Arena. We've been following the creation process regularly, including recently in the foundry. A workshop visit with fire and water, excitement and anticipation for the first Munich memorial for a Bayern player.
A labour of love
"He's here!" The words come humming out of Karel Fron. With quick steps he pushes forward through the group of spectators. "Let me look!" Earlier he had been anxiously following what was happening in the backyard of the Anton Gugg art and bell foundry. How an axe and pickaxe were hammering away at a cuboid, chest-high casting mould. How the fireclay stone fell away in large chunks, gathering dust, until only the core was left. How a well-aimed jet of water from the high-pressure cleaner exposed what was hidden in this core. The rock flew through the courtyard in thousands of small chunks and landed on the clothes, hair and faces of the spectators. Then dark metal emerged.
First the Bayern badge, then the nose, eyes, cheeks, mouth... At the end you looked unmistakably into the face of Gerd Müller. So now it's the turn of Karel Fron. He looks at the exposed bronze up close – then it bubbles out of him again: "Wow! Perfect!" He high-fives the foundry staff. Everyone has come out into the courtyard. "Am I glad! Phew!" says Fron, taking a deep breath. "Not much can go wrong now." It's no ordinary day at the traditional foundry in Straubing. At the end of June, a small delegation from the Kurt Landauer Foundation made its way to Lower Bavaria to be there when the head of the Gerd Müller monument saw the light of day. A cheerful Fron speaks of an "act of creation".
He fluctuates somewhere between anticipation and uncertainty, almost like an expectant father. Will everything go well? For a good year and a half, he's been working on a memorial for the legendary "Bomber" on behalf of the foundation. He has read, studied photos, developed ideas, made sketches and models and finally moulded the memorial in clay. Gerd Müller became a part of his life. "I may be a man, but I think I can say it was like being pregnant – and now the child is here. Gerd is here!" It's a hot June morning, but it's even hotter in the foundry hall. For two hours bronze has been heated to 1,200 degrees, now it is liquid and waiting to be used. Before Gerd Müller's bronze head is knocked out, the casting of the last part of the monument is on the agenda. The figure is too large to be made in one piece.
Instead, it was dismantled into 12 individual parts: Feet, legs, hands, arms, head... Now the last piece is being cast. The mould made of fireclay is already ready. Someone has scrawled "Gerd Müller" and "lower part" on the block of stone with their finger above and below the sprue hole. It's quiet in the hall, where normally someone is always hammering, flexing or grinding. All work has come to a halt so that the casting can proceed undisturbed. Two men with silver full-body aprons, thick gloves and mirrored visors in front of their faces set to work routinely and with sure grips.
With long metal rods, they manoeuvre the red and orange glowing vessel with the liquid bronze over the mould. They tilt it and the bronze flows unerringly into the mould. It crackles and bubbles, small white clouds of smoke rise. The whole process only takes a few minutes, then everything is done. Karel Fron claps his hands. "Great!" he shouts. Johann Gugg, the company boss, buys a round of apple schnapps – a ritual. Fron drips a few splashes from his shot glass onto the mould. "Gerd, I baptise you," he says and toasts with the others. "I think it's going to be good."
From model to monument
Fron wears a blue t-shirt with the foundry's logo, and in the last few weeks he's virtually become a permanent employee. Every day he's worked on the monument from early morning until late at night. The path from clay model to bronze monument has countless steps. Still in his studio in Munich, a plastic model 1.5 times the size was created from the life-size clay model by 3D scanning and printing. From this, a wax model was created in the foundry, on which Fron still had to do a lot of reworking. The model came out of the 3D printer "like a washed-off bar of soap", Fron says, and all the edges were gone. So Fron re-modelled everything in wax, which cost a lot of time and nerves. He spent another four weeks on the face alone. Now he can laugh about it, he says pointing to his snow-white head of hair: "Before, I had black hair!" When he was finally finished, the foundry took over the next steps.
Twelve moulds were made from the wax model, with casting channels, nails for stabilisation and everything that goes with it. The moulds were baked, the wax melted out, so that a cavity was created for the liquid bronze. One piece at a time was finally cast and knocked out of the mould when cool. "It's a lottery. Many, many things can go wrong," Fron says, "but it worked out beautifully." The bronze Gerd Müller is also something special for the foundry, if only because of the size of the monument, says Gugg. The foundry has been in the hands of his family for over 470 years, he is the ninth generation. And the monument is also a family affair, by the fans for the fans and the club. Even the financing is provided by the supporters alone, with donations from the large FCB family from all over the world.
„People need ideals, that's why we build monuments for them. If you're ever in a difficult situation, you can say: 'Think of Gerd Müller! He did it - and I'll try it too!'”
Some Bayern supporters also work in the foundry, says Gugg. That's why the identification with this job is particularly strong. "If they ever go to the Allianz Arena with their children, they will pass by the monument and can say: 'I worked on that'." Around four metres high, complete with pedestal, Gerd Müller will stand in front of the arena and become a centre of attraction for all fans. "I can hardly wait to see how'll look there," says Georg Mooshofer from the Kurt Landauer Foundation. The memorial is a thank you from the fans to perhaps the club's greatest legend. "On the one hand, it is meant to be a memorial, but also to inspire reflection," Mooshofer says. With his goals, Gerd Müller paved FC Bayern's way to the top. "At the same time, he managed to remain human. That will also shine through when you look at the monument."
Think of Gerd
Müller's life has been one of ups and downs, "like all of us", Fron says. "Sometimes you have to climb a mountain. That's what life is all about – and Gerd mastered it." That's why he's a role model, he adds. "People need ideals, that's why we build monuments for them. If you're ever in a difficult situation, you can say: 'Think of Gerd Müller! He did it - and I'll try it too!' Ideals are a driver, an enthusiasm for the future." It just goes on and on. Movement has also always been a central aspect of his work, the artist explains. "But to bring movement into a static without it looking theatrical, that was a challenge," Fron explains. "The monument should not express: I am the greatest! But rather: Joy! Gerd should convey joy, not only for himself but for everyone who rejoices with him, for the fans. That was his greatest gift. I wasn't sure if I could manage to model that joy." But Müller's way of celebrating, with his arms stretched upwards, made it easier for him, he said. "That was pure joy, and I tried to realise and immortalise that."
In the foundry workshop, one of Gerd Müller's hands is clamped in the vice. You can see where casting channels were set, where a nail was sitting. The small stumps have to be removed, the holes have to be welded shut. Fron works with an angle grinder, a hammer and a small chisel. He also puts the finishing touches to the monument artistically. He uses so-called chisel irons to rework contours and structure the surface. "The figure lives from a certain structure, that makes it more alive. Like the bark on a tree," he explains. It's a small-scale handicraft for which he will need a few more weeks. Then he patinates to give the monument a uniform appearance. At the same time, the pedestal on which Gerd Müller will stand in front of the Arena is being built, so there is still a lot to do. But now that Gerd Müller's head has been completed, Fron is more full of energy and drive than ever. He grins and says: "We have to be finished by the Gäubodenvolksfest. Then they'll close the foundry here."
This article appears in the September edition of "51", along with an interview with Minjae Kim: