If you happen to also follow ‘The Life of B‘ then you will know that for the past 27 days I have had an addiction to squares. Imagine therefore my delight on a rainy afternoon in Lisbon when I entered the ground floor of the modern collection at Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian.
The museum is mainly noted for the six thousand pieces amassed by the founder, Calouste Sarkis Gulbenkian. It is an extraordinary collection but the works he amassed didn’t affect me as much as the modern collection in the second building. There is a fascinating exhibition on the lower floor which links Portugal’s political history with its art, culture, design and architecture. It was superb and we only wish we had started here rather than finishing here. I can’t wait to share it with you. You are going to have to wait though for my exhibition post, as today I must fulfil a promise I made on Sunday. A post filled with mostly squares!
Very few of the pieces had a title, but as you will discover if you click on the gallery or hover your mouse over each picture I have recorded the artist’s name and date of the piece. Occasionally there was a title, and the ‘evolution of a square’ was one such piece. I couldn’t resist it!
As you might expect I found most of the squares in the area dedicated to the 1950s and 1960s, but there were a few turning up in the new few decades. You may recognise the last one in the next gallery from my header on Sunday. I found it upstairs amongst all the paintings. I rather like it.
You are probably all squared out by now so here’s a brief founder’s history. Calouste Sarkis Gulbenkian was born in Constantinople in 1869, and his early years were spent in the Ottoman Empire. However his education was mostly in French schools, first in Ottoman and latterly in France itself. His father was an Armenian oil importer/exporter, and so perhaps it is not surprising that he arranged for his son to study petroleum engineering in England. Gulbenkian gained a first class degree in engineering and applied sciences at Kings College London, and became an extremely successful businessman within the oil industry. At the time of his death in Lisbon in 1955, Gulbenkian’s fortune was estimated at between US$280 million and US$840 million! He did far more with his money though than just invest in his business and art, he also donated large sums of money to churches, scholarships, schools, and hospitals. On his death he willed that a foundation was to be set up in his name to continue his passion for reducing social exclusion and supporting the arts, charity, science and education. It is this foundation which runs the museums in Lisbon today.
The museums and surrounding gardens are well worth a visit if you are spending a few days in Lisbon and/or you happen to experience a rainy day. I will share at least two more posts on the museums, but for now in case you are visiting Lisbon anytime soon here’s a tip – the cafe in the building that houses the Founder’s Collection is busier but I think has much better cakes and surroundings than the one in the building that houses the modern collection!