In the centre of Lisbon lies a secret garden, a green refuge offering an escape from the buzzing Lisbon city life. Rays of sunlight pierce through the foliage and illuminate the meandering pathways that lead to hidden pools and secluded hangouts. In the middle of the forest stand two enormous sculptures, which form the heart of the garden. The surrounding green completely encompasses the buildings and seems to collide against its brutal, concrete walls. Inside, the lifework of one of world’s most illustrious philanthropes is displayed.
Calouste Sarkis Gulbenkian was born in Istanbul (then Constantinople) in 1869. He became one of the key figures in the development of the oil industry and the exploitation of the oil fields in the middle east. The passion for art and interest in ancient cultures he inherited from his father, combined with his exuberant fortune impelled him to gather one of the world’s biggest art collections. His collection contained over 6 000 pieces from all over the world, dating from antiquity until the early twentieth century. The last 13 years of his life Gulbenkian spent in Lisbon, living in one of the most prestigious suites of the Hotel Aviz. In his last will he left his ‘children’ - as he used to call his collection - to a foundation bearing his name. Fourteen years after his death in 1955, the Calouste Gulbenkian Museum opened in Lisbon.