Calouste Gulbenkian

I went to a surprisingly select gathering of scholars and academics to celebrate the publication of Jonathan Conlin’s admirably thorough biography of Calouste Gulbenkian, the enormously wealthy Armenian oil magnate who Kenneth Clark persuaded to lend many of his best paintings to the National Gallery in the 1930s and was going to build and endow a neoclassical building to house his works of art (his ‘harem’ as he apparently described them) on the site now occupied by the Sainsbury Wing.

But the government briefly interned him during the war and Philip Hendy, the postwar socialist Director, had no interest in courting a wealthy and by then somewhat reclusive collector living in a hotel in Lisbon (John Walker, the Director of the National Gallery in Washington did, but failed). So, the collection went to its beautiful building in the northern outskirts of Lisbon and the bulk of the estate went to the establishment of the Gulbenkian Foundation as more Portuguese than international.

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One thought on “Calouste Gulbenkian

  1. marinavaizey says:

    I think Robert Hewison has written a history of the Gulbenkian Foundation in London? they have done very interesting things here. And of course I think London was also inhospitable to Peggy Guggenheim and could not come to an agreement either with the Aga Khan.

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