Reinhard Ernst

Photo: Tanja Nitzke

‘For me it goes without saying that, as a collector, I have a public responsibility, because the works of art were not created for me alone. That is why I would like as many works of art as possible to be shown to the public.’

– Reinhard Ernst

Parallel to building up his companies for high-precision drive technology in the 1980s, the entrepreneur Reinhard Ernst collected abstract art. He was born in Westerwald in 1945 and grew up in the Taunus region of Germany and had no great relationship to art during his childhood. It was only when he began travelling around the world on business that he developed an interest in painting and sculpture.

“There was hardly a trip abroad without a visit to a museum.”


Over the years, Reinhard Ernst created a collection of the highest calibre which continues to grow. The focus is on American, European and Japanese painting – especially Abstract Expressionism, Informel and the Gutai group of artists. More contemporary works continue to be added to the collection illustrating the continuing significance of abstraction to the present day.

Reinhard Ernst’s enthusiasm for the work he has gathered shows no sign of abating. The artist Helen Frankenthaler is a particular favourite of his:


‘She uses an orange that you would still recognise in the dark. With some of the colours she uses, you’d think there was a candle burning behind it, making the whole thing glow.’

Helen Frankenthaler, The Road to Messina, 1971 © VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn, 2024
Reinhard and Sonja Ernst. Photo: Helbig and Marburger


The Wiesbaden-based businessman has wanted to open up his collection to the public for some time.

This led to the idea of a museum for abstract art which would present different aspects of the Reinhard Ernst Collection as well as hosting special exhibitions. This vision eventually became a concrete plan: in 2016, the Reinhard & Sonja Ernst Foundation proposed to the city of Wiesbaden that it build and operate a museum at its own expense. After a public consultation process, this proposal was accepted by the magistrate and the city council with unanimous cross-party support. The design committee, which advises the city as an independent body on development issues, also unreservedly approved the museum architect’s proposal.

The property at Wilhelmstraße 1 was then made available to the Reinhard & Sonja Ernst Foundation with a 99-year leasehold agreement.

For this period, the foundation is the sole sponsor of the museum and secures the ongoing exhibition operations.

The museum advisory council proposed by Reinhard Ernst met for the first time in the summer of 2020. Since then, Prof. Dr. Christoph Zuschlag (Deputy Chairman), Dr. Gerhard Finckh, Dr. Alexander Klar and Bastienne Leuthe have been advising the museum.

The museum is an internationally attractive address for abstract art, an important central location featuring a restaurant, a digital colour laboratory for children, a museum shop and fully equipped events spaces. The museum is a significant enhancement to the state capital of Wiesbaden. Here we find one passionate collector’s vision transformed into a cultural centre open to one and all.

Further information about Reinhard Ernst, his career and his passion for abstract art can be found in the fascinating book Die Kunst gehört allen, Kramer, 2024. Available in the shop, online and offline.

Purchase now


You may also be interested in: