Ernst museum starts it’s history almost 100 years ago. The building, which nowadays remains one of the tallest on the Nadymezo street, was purpose-built. Lajos Ernst, the commissioner of the building, was a Hungarian art collector, which can be differentiated from his contemporaries for having modern ideas about art and collecting. He has built the building to exhibit how various art collection, make the objects widely available for public. Ernst’s art collection has become the first public collection in Hungary while remaining in private hands.
Whereas in the beginning of 20th century Hungarian collectors were focusing on contemporary European artists, Ernst has always expressed aim to create of Hungarica: a representation of diverse Hungarian culture and history. He started collecting in a very early age, in the end of 19th century. The first objects acquired were historical relics. Expanding constantly, very soon his collection became very large and diverse.
By the first decade of 20th century Ernst has already owned a sufficient amount of objects to give them to other important exhibitions, and even establish own exhibition space. It is when he has started seriously planning a creation or Ernst Museum. He also had an imaginative business plan to maintain the museum from the income from the tenement house around and regular auctions. Having close contacts with contemporary artists he was confident that the museum’s art exhibitions and artistic events, designed with a contemporary approach, would attract a constant flow of visitors.
In 1909 Ernst bough a plot on Nagymezo street and commissioned design of the future museum. According to the plan there was studio flats fitted into the top floors of the building, the first floor of the building was designed for his collection and temporary exhibitions, and the ground floor was designated for cinema and shops.
The building was situated in the center of the city, in the heart of commercial and professional life. Location was itself a novel, in respond to Ernst’s advanced thinking.
Situated among apartment houses, the museum was not surrounded in the aura of autonomy and separation, it was not a temple of art or national culture like its processors were. Art and artistic experience was to belong to the civil population.
The new distinctive architectural forms of the building was based on the international language of art nouveau, and was consequences of Ernst’s approach to secularized museum concept. Design of the building exterior and interior marked a perfect entrance to a historical museum and a modern gallery. Mixture of styles in architecture and design and expressed significance of the past onto the art, as well as importance of the new aesthetic approach of the Ernst’s age: turn-of-the-century culture, the 19th century national idea, civil democratic notions, ideals, and the pragmatism of the modern age.
Every room of the museum had proportions of an average drawing room. Furniture and textiles enhanced the effect of a comfortable residence and the daring color scheme provided the background for the well-framed paintings. The interior presented the pictures almost as they would be buyer’s house, unusual color expressed the bright elegance of a new taste in applied arts.
The exhibitions held in the museum was permanent and temporary. Permanent exposition included relics of old times, portraits of Hungarian cultural representatives: painters, musicians, and actors.
Being unquestionably very modern, even novel, the museum provoked contradictions, and in the publications of the time writers demonstrated lack of vocabulary to express and characterize it.
The modern museum idea pioneered by Ernst lives in today in many forms: in the conversion of even more worldly, industrial buildings in culturally neglected neighboring areas, interlinking studios and exhibition spaces, and bringing together contemporary art, museum art and related arts, which is the aim of Ernst museum today.
Sources: The Ernst Museum, Ernst Museum, Budapest, 2002.
Photo by: Zsolt, Budapest Daily Photo, www.budapestdailyphoto.com