I’m lured to Lisbon fairly regularly for a dose of culture, great restaurants and nightlife to balance out my peaceful village life in central Portugal. I usually take the opportunity to make some new discoveries but there are some places I find myself going back to time and time again. The Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation is one of them.
Contemporary art at the Gulbenkian
One of the things I love about the Gulbenkian is the contemporary art. As well as a rotating display of the Modern Art Centre’s permanent collection, there are always temporary exhibitions throughout the complex, which includes the art gallery, foundation building, museum and gardens.
Sometimes the temporary exhibitions are better than others and my most recent visit was one of those times.
On one of my visits, I get to know the work of Portuguese artist Amadeo de Sousa-Cardosa. Amadeo died at the age of 30 but before his untimely demise in 1918, he produced a remarkable number of paintings and drawings and was clearly too busy making art to bother naming most of his pieces.
“Dom Quixote”, one of the few paintings with a name, is part of the Gulbenkian’s permanent collection because I remember being taken with it when I visited the gallery several years ago. I was equally impressed on second viewing. Although Amadeo mastered several different styles and techniques of painting, the colours and forms from this period of his work really appeal to me, especially the exaggerated curves of the horses and people.
You can see much of Amadeo’s work at the museum in his home town of Amarante.
The gardens of the Gulbenkian Foundation are always worthy of a wander and if you have time, this is a great place to bring a book or a picnic.
With plenty of hidden benches and quirky sculptures there are quiet places to escape to and new discoveries to make.
Art and ducks aside, the other main draw of the gardens is its amphitheatre. The stage is also used by local Tai Chi groups and teenagers practising their dance acts while the benches attract couples and Sunday newspaper readers.
Calouste Gulbenkian Founder’s Collection and Museum
I’ve visited the museum several times and still haven’t seen all it has to offer. Admittedly, there are some things that attract me more than others so I haven’t spent much time in the Egyptian room or the Greek coin collection.
I prefer to spend my time admiring the Islamic art in the form of tiles and rugs, the collection of inlaid Japanese boxes and the gorgeous Lalique jewellery.
Temporary exhibitions have included some magnificent still life oil paintings and the Aga Khan’s private collection of Islamic artefacts.
Eating at the Gulbenkian
If it isn’t picnic weather or you’d rather have someone else prepare your food, try one of the Gulbenkian’s eateries. At least one new café has opened up in the gardens since my last visit so if there are long queues for the café / restaurants in the art centre or museum buildings, take a short walk outside.
Try to eat before 12.30 to avoid waiting for your food or a table as they get very busy at lunchtime.
Tip: Like many museums and art galleries in Portugal, entry is free on Sundays. Otherwise, expect to pay between 10 and 11.50 euros depending on what you want to see. The Lisbon Card gives you a 20% discount if you have one.
For more information about the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation and its current activities and prices, check out the official website.
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