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, the Modern Art Centre, whose holdings include an extensive collection of contemporary British art, 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.
At year end 2010 the Foundation had assets of €2.9 billion. Two thirds of these assets are held in an internationally diversified portfolio of equities and bonds and one third is represented by the Foundation's remaining oil interests which are still overwhelmingly in the Middle East. It has an annual budget of over €100 million.
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 its current President is also President of the European Foundation Centre.
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 man 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.
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. Currently, the Founder’s grandson, Mikhael Essayan, is Honorary President having been a member of the board for 24 years. His 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. Both are UK citizens and residents.