The Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation is an international foundation based in Portugal whose statutory aims are in the fields of arts, social welfare, education and science. Created by a clause in Calouste Sarkis Gulbenkian's will, the Foundation's statutes were approved in 1956.
About the Foundation
The Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation is a charitable foundation set up in 1956 as a private institution of public utility under a special act of the Portuguese Government. Its Headquarters are in Lisbon and include the Administration, which deals with grant-giving throughout the world, the Calouste Gulbenkian Museum, housing the Founder’s art collections and recognised as one of the best small museums in Europe and the Modern Art Collection, whose holdings include an extensive collection of contemporary British art. There is also an Art Library, book shop, concert and conference halls. The Foundation also maintains a Science Institute near Lisbon, a Portuguese delegation in Paris and the grant giving branch in London.
The Foundation’s Work
The Foundation acts in its four statutorily defined areas: arts, education, science, and social welfare. The bulk of its activities are in Portugal but its impact is felt much more widely and it is becoming increasingly international in order to address society’s biggest problems and respect the Founder’s wishes. It works extensively with other leading European Foundations and partners constantly with NGOs and charities.
In Portugal it pursues its goals through a mix of its own activities and grants to other organisations and individuals. The Armenian Communities Department is run from Lisbon but acts globally seeking to preserve the ancient and unique Armenian language, identity and culture. The London and Paris offices have particular roles: London as a grant-giver in the UK and Ireland, Paris as a Portuguese and European cultural centre. Both seek to work together and with Lisbon to address issues with international impact.
Two issues that were close to Calouste Gulbenkian’s heart are increasingly engaging our attention today: bringing together people of different cultures, ethnicities, and religions; and the relationship between people and the environment. A few years ago the Foundation launched an international prize in the Founder’s honour, with a distinguished international selection panel, for the institution that does the most to further one of these aims.
In 2019, the Foundation announced the creation of a new Prize for Humanity, worth 1 million euros, to be awarded annually, starting in 2020. The first prize will be in the field of climate change, which the Foundation views as the greatest and most urgent challenge facing humanity.
The Foundation is run according to its statutes by a board of trustees. Trustees have to be re-elected every five years. Over half must be of Portuguese nationality; six are executive, each with responsibility for a number of departments, and three are non-executive. The selection of trustees and governance of the Foundation is independent of the Portuguese Government, but the Foundation is subject to an independent financial audit by a group nominated by certain leading national institutions. The Foundation publishes a full annual report together with detailed audited accounts.
Throughout its history the Foundation has had a member of the Founder’s family on the board of trustees. The Founder’s grandson, Mikhael Essayan, was Honorary President and a member of the board for 24 years. His son, the Founder’s great-grandson, Martin Essayan, is the third generation to serve on the board and took over responsibility for the UK Branch and Armenian Communities Department from his father.
In 2018, the Foundation’s Board of Trustees decided to sell the Foundation’s energy holdings, Partex. In her announcement of the sale, President of the Foundation’s Board of Trustees, Isabel Mota commented: “the reconfiguration of the Foundation’s financial portfolio and investments will reinforce its diversification, social and environmental impact and alignment with the philanthropic nature of the Foundation’s activities.” The sale of Partex was completed in November 2019 and enables the Foundation to adopt a sustainable vision of the future.
The Foundation’s Headquarters
Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian
Avenida de Berna, 45A
T +351 21 782 3000 F +351 21 782 3021