About the Collection

After the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation was founded in 1956 it began, in various ways, to support artists and cultural activities, mainly in Portugal, but also abroad, notably in Britain and also in Iraq. This early internationalism was a recognition of the fact that Calouste Gulbenkian had been a British citizen whose fortune derived from the emerging oil industry of the Gulf region.

After this building was opened, in 1983, the Foundation began to create a Modern Collection in the proper sense of the word, and this is what is presented here, along the length of the three main levels of the building. The collection is inevitably much stronger in the second half of the 20th century, and especially after 1983. Nonetheless, there is representation of Portuguese art stretching back to the beginning of the century, and this is what we show here, amplified by a few loans from the other collections.

The timeline on the lower level offers an introduction to the history of Portugal over the last century, and it is accompanied by printed material from the Art Library which helps to chart the changing cultural scene. The painting and sculpture displays on the upper and ground levels follow the same trajectory; starting at the beginning of the 20th century and taking us up the present day. Within this new arrangement the selection will change and rotate over time, to reflect alternative holdings, different readings and new acquisitions. We hope you will have the opportunity to accompany us on this journey.