Museum Reinhard Ernst: Alles vom Feinsten

Some call it a sugar cube, others refer to it as a double block. And this is happening right at the beginning of Wiesbaden’s popular parade mile, the Wilhelmstraße, which has been kitschily nicknamed „Rue“ by the locals. In any case, it is a good, shining place for the new Museum Reinhard Ernst, or mre for short. The intimidating building was designed by the 95-year-old Japanese architect and Pritzker Prize winner Fumihiko Maki. Cubes made of sparkling white granite rest on a glass base that encloses a bright atrium. The mre was supposed to have opened by now, but the interior still looks like a construction site. The opening is now scheduled for several months from now. Since it is a private museum, this doesn’t concern anyone except the benefactor themselves.

Der in WiesbadenLiving collector Reinhard Ernst has gifted the city with an 80 million euro museum, and his Reinhard & Sonja Ernst Foundation also covers all operating costs. „Money has always fascinated me,“ Ernst recently stated. Fortunately, he is not only fascinated by money, but also by art. It should be noted that neither money nor art were handed to him on a silver platter. Born in 1945 in Westerwald, Reinhard Ernst grew up in Taunus with a working-class father and a homemaker mother. After completing secondary school, he began training as a freight forwarder. He then worked for international companies until the opportunity arose to purchase a precision gear company. It has since become a market leader.

Reinhard Ernst stumbled upon the art world by chance, including a transformative experience at the Musée Picasso in Paris. He developed a fascination for abstract art, mainly because it allows for individual interpretation. Currently, he owns over 900 artworks, primarily consisting of European Informalism, American abstract expressionism, and Japanese abstraction. His collection includes mostly paintings but also sculptures. It would be a shame to keep all of this hidden from the public indefinitely.

Das Atrium des Museums Reinhard Ernst in Wiesbaden, das von dem japanischen Stararchitekten Fumihiko Maki entworfen wurde.

Ernst owns approximately the largest private collection of American color field painter Helen Frankenthaler, consisting of about 40 works. Her paintings will surely be featured in the opening exhibition „Color is Everything!“ Other artists whose works will be displayed include Josef Albers, Sam Francis, K.O. Götz, Lee Krasner, Morris Louis, Heinz Mack, Robert Motherwell, Ernst Wilhelm Nay, Judit Reigl, Shōzō Shimamoto, Tōkō Shinoda, Frank Stella, Wolfgang Tillmans, and many more. The founding director of the museum, Oliver Kornhoff, who was previously responsible for the Arp Museum Bahnhof Rolandseck, is not yet revealing specific details. However, his enthusiasm is evident as he excitedly walks through the unfinished museum wearing hiking boots under his suit pants. He repeatedly exclaims „spectacular“ or „super.“

The first special exhibition will be dedicated to the architect Fumihiko Maki. He is friends with Reinhard Ernst and the new building will be his tenth museum. Maki designed it with consideration for the surrounding historical buildings, such as the Museum Wiesbaden which is only a few brushstrokes away. Each room in the museum is unique, and the exhibits will be spread across two manageable floors and 2000 square meters, so visitors‘ visual senses will not be overwhelmed.

This is also good because it aims to inspire school classes for art. With free admission, its own educational program, and the unusual decision to open the house only for children and teenagers on most mornings. This aligns well with the donor’s background and other projects of the Ernst couple, who donated a music school to the city of Eppstein. Through the mre, Reinhard Ernst immortalizes himself and his art. Some of the commissioned works for the ground floor are already there, protected from views and construction work, such as the first glass artwork by artist Katharina Grosse. In the atrium, Eduardo Chillida’s steel sculpture Looking for the Light III already sits, facing it as a delicate antipode is a 50-year-old Japanese maple tree. One floor above, Tony Cragg claims his own niche for his over six-meter-tall and four-ton bronze sculpture Pair, which is also still well packaged. It was delivered to the raw building by crane.

During the tour of the museum, it quickly becomes clear that no expenses or efforts were spared; everything is top-notch, with sophisticated room acoustics and stunning floors, such as bright terrazzo here and astar oak there. One of the rooms has a cathedral-like ceiling height of 14 meters. It makes one feel very small and reverent, even without large colorful art surrounding it.