A hundred and fifty one years ago, near Istanbul, was born a shy child who would become a respected man in the business world. A famous art collector, an unequalled benefactor. A hundred and fifty one years ago, the world witnessed the birth of Calouste Sarkis Gulbenkian.

From his renowned ancestors he inherited his name and from his Armenian origins, he inherited his generous soul, with which he embraced the noblest causes. From his father he inherited the business of the family. He was a reserved child, became a young man endowed with the most unusual intelligence and turned into a visionary man, who was a husband, a father, a grandfather and the holder of one of the greatest fortunes on the planet.

A Citizen of the World

Gulbenkian, 1934, no Egipto ©FCG

Gulbenkian, 1934, in Egypt, ©FCG

He made the world his home and the contact with new cultures his way of living. Very early he went to Marseilles to improve his “French” and it was at King’s College, in London, that he completed his course, with distinction. He went to recognise the oil region of Baku with his father, who insisted that he should be involved in the kerosene trade. However, Calouste went further and went on to revolutionise the oil sector, which its prosperity enabled him to nourish, among many journeys, his vein of philanthropist and art collector.

His residence was, for several years, divided between London and Paris. Nevertheless, the war was about to change his plans. At the age of 73, he settled in the distinguished Aviz Hotel, in Lisbon and, despite the numerous visits to the French capital, after the war, it is in Portugal that he has preserved his residence, because he felt welcomed here.

The legacy of Calouste

Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian – um local de cultura a não perder numa visita a Lisboa

Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian, Diana, ©Ricardo Oliveira Alves

He claimed to be an “entrepreneurial architect” and, at the age of 84, he decided to establish, through a written will, a foundation in Lisbon, to which he would leave his fortune and his works of art. The philanthropist died in 1955, at the Aviz Hotel and, one year later, the statutes of the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation were approved.

In the heart of the city, with a soul and full of life, the Foundation breathes culture and throbbing emotions, betting on human potential and supporting projects that, in all, reflect the personality of Calouste – Science, Education, Art and Charity.

Whoever visits the Foundation loses oneself in the subtle geometry of its gardens and in its surrounding recesses, while listening in the distance to the harmonious melodies, which the Orchestra and the Choir are spreading through the air. With a clear mind, one enters the Museum. Superb, amazing and fascinating collections stand before one’s eyes.


Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian – Av. de Berna, nº 45 to 5 minutes walk from Luzeiros Suites, next to El Corte Inglês


Text: Companhia das Cores in Loja das Meias magazine

Credits: Exterior View of the Museum ©Márcia Lessa