(peaceful music) – Hello, I am Aimee Ng, curatorat The Frick Collection and welcome to another episodeof Travels With A Curator.

Xavier has tirelessly takenyou to a number of cities around Italy and Poland and in England and I'm so excited that in this episode, we get to travel together to Portugal.

And to its capital, Lisbon.

This is a city very wellknown for its history, architecture, art, and most recently, its incredible food scene.

And for those of you whodo go to Lisbon soon I hope that in addition to hitting all of the major tourist attractions in the center of town and ofcourse the important pilgrimage to Belem for your pastel de nata, that you go just outsideas well of the city.

Just outside of the city center to Paliava, it's just a little bit north and west to visit theCalouste Gulbenkian Museum.

This is a museum with many intersections with The Frick Collectionin its history and its art.

Like The Frick, of course, this museum is named for its founder, Calouste Gulbenkian.

Now, obviously this isa modernist building.

It was constructed, designed, constructed in the 1960s but the story of theGulbenkian Museum began long before that.

And I should just mention that this is one of a complex of buildings on this site including a modern art center, headquarters for TheGulbenkian Foundation, indoors auditorium and outdoors auditorium and expansive gardens where you really spend anentire day enjoying the outdoors as well as enjoying the experience of the outdoors from the inside and what I mean is as soon as you walk in to the Founder's Collection, to the core collection of Gulbenkian at The Gulbenkian Museum, you'll notice how important the vision of the outdoors is for themuseum experience inside.

And to some degree this is like an homage to the historic site on which The Gulbenkian Museum is found.

Well, before the GreatLisbon earthquake of 1755, this was relatively rural land.

It was considered one of the gates into the city of Lisbon and itwas not dramatically affected by the Great Lisbon earthquake, primarily because it was much more rural.

In a sense, it was not built up in a way that demolished an entirecity of architecture and buildings as happenedin the city center.

The inverted triangle I'm showing you at the center of thisearly 19th-century map is about the site on whichThe Gulbenkian Museum and its gardens are now found.

It's called the, on this map it's called the (speaking in Portuguese).

It was an estate, afarm of a private person and over the course of the 19th century, this eventually became the siteof the Santa Gertrudes Park which had a number offunctions over the 19th and 20th century.

My favorite being, Ithink, the Jardim Zoologico so the Zoological Gardens of Lisbon and I think you can see some exotic animals traipsing around.

There's a camel on the path on the site where you can now findThe Gulbenkian Museum.

It was in the 1950s that the GulbenkianFoundation acquired much of Santa Gertrudes Parkand built the building and developed the gardens.

I hope you can see on this slide.

This is a photograph from 1969, the year of the inaugurationof The Gulbenkian Museum.

The museum building is the one on the left and it's punctuated with a couple of rectilinear courtyards and I'm showing this toyou to give you a sense that it's not just theimmersion and surrounding of the building in gardens but also that gardens actually penetrate the building itself.

And I was trying to collect photographs to take a walk with you the museum, I realized how difficult it was to capture in still photography whatit's like to be at the museum.

It is a place that is aboutdiscovery and movement, about the fall of sunor the cast of shadows.

It's about unexpected juxtapositions.

Sometimes you'll turn a corner and you'll something like an18th-century marble sculpture next to a flowering bush.

Now who was Calouste Sarkis Gulbenkian? He was an Armenian born in Istanbul, so Constantinople, then partof the Ottoman Empire in 1869 and he was educated in England and became a British national, a naturalizedBritish subject in 1902.

And he spent many of hisyears living in Paris.

He was once and for some time considered the richest man in the world.

He was an oil magnate.

And he earned thenickname Mr.

Five Percent because of the personal share he demanded on every deal that he participated in.

His enormous wealth allowed him to amass an extraordinary collectionof the finest objects that were available onthe market at the time.

And when you walk into The Gulbenkian Museumyou'll note immediately that his collectinginterests were far broader than those of Henry Clay Frick.

And this may well reflect a little bit of the broad cultural connectionsthat Gulbenkian had also, coming from a placethat was sort of between and both west and east.

So the collection consists of objects from Egyptian art, Greco-Roman objects, Iznik pottery, Chineseand Japanese porcelains, Persian carpets, Europeanpainting, sculptures and decorative arts objects and particularly in the decorative arts, very, very strong holdingsin the French 18th century.

To choose a highlight of the collection is difficult because itreally depends on your taste in terms of these verywide areas of collecting.

In terms of European art, I would venture toward immediately this great Peter Paul Rubens portrait of his young wife, Helena Fourment.

Full length, dramatic, lovely, seductive.

It's a celebration insome ways of expression, not just in the face but in the fingers.

And also this incredible ability to render various textures in paint so from the satin to thefeathers to the flesh to the clouds.

It may be hard to notice sometimes.

It's a little bit hiddenbut if you look closely, there is a fantastically rendered jewel just under her breasts and this is the painting that rewards both far looking and closelooking all the same.

Others would point to Rembrandt'sPortrait of an Old Man which is so exemplaryof Rembrandt's ability to convey deep psychological presence, simple compositions of figures in dramatically lit and shadowed spaces and of course the masterfularticulation of wrinkled skin and aged beard and hair.

Both this picture and theRubens portrait of Helena were acquired in sortof an incredible coup of collecting around 1930.

Gulbenkian was able to acquire a number of key objects that historically had been in the collection of Catherine the Great and he was able to acquirethese from The Hermitage.

Then in Leningrad, today's St.

Petersburg, and in addition to these pictures, there were a number of other objects including this fabulouslife-size marble sculpture by the 18th-century French sculptor Houdon of Diana the Huntress.

And for those of you who knowThe Frick's collection well, you'll know that The Frickhas a terracotta version of Houdon's Diana the Huntress.

She of course is not thefabulous marble figure and The Frick's Diana is missing her arrow but both The Frick and TheGulbenkian have found ways to allow Diana to communein some way with nature.

And in The Frick's case, through the window thatis Central Park seen across the street.

Now, there are a number of similarities between Frick's collecting inEuropean art and Gulbenkian's.

Gulbenkian too was very interested in these fabulous, full-lengthGainsborough portraits of members of wealthy British society.

Here is Mrs.

Lowndes-Stone and her dog.

And dramatic Turner seascapes.

A number of these deeply, deeply disturbed waters and dramatic seascapes that The Frick also is known very well for.

Also key works in more modernareas like works by Manet.

Here's Manet's Boy Blowing Bubbles and a wonderful self portrait by Degas.

Perhaps my favorite amongthis is a painting by Renoir and this is Renoir painting Madame Monet.

So this is the painter ClaudeMonet's wife painted by Renoir and what's extraordinaryabout this picture of course is the richness of his color but also the levity andlightness of the brushstroke and a real instant captured so lovingly, to somedegree, in this paint.

So the experience of TheGulbenkian Collection is as much about what's inside the frames of these paintings, the objects themselves, as it is about experience them in this extraordinary building.

It's a museum like no other in the world.

It's not a white cube in the sense of a contemporary art space.

This is a modernist building of minimalist architecture, exactly the 1960s so seeing Rubens' portraitof Helena Fourment against concrete and with the reflection of these simple linesof wood on the ground, it gives a differentperspective materially to looking at the paintingthan you would anywhere else in the world.

It allows these material confrontations to bring out different things from the objects madelong ago and far away.

Now, as many of you know, The Frick will be temporarilyinstalling a selection from the permanent collection in the Breuer Building in New York City at Madison Avenue and 75th Street.

And the Breuer Building is the iconic, one of the most iconic buildings representing minimalist, brutalist architecture of the 1960s so The Gulbenkianoffers an important lesson and model for what can happen.

The sort of marvelous encounters that can be made possiblebetween old master art and minimalist, modernist architecture.

But how did the private collection of an Ottoman Armenian who naturalized as a British subject and who lived much of his life in Paris end up in Lisbon and I'm showing you a photograph from Gulbenkian's house inParis on the Avenue d'Iéna.

And I think you can see there on the left, there is Diana the Huntress installed at the base of a staircase.

Now, there's an important distinction to make between The Frick's story and Gulbenkian's story.

Frick built his houseat one East 70th Street, now The Frick Collection, in order for him and his family tolive with his collection.

With the understanding that one day it would become open asa museum for the public.

Gulbenkian had a verydifferent relationship to the idea of home and home can be many different things to many different peopleand especially right now so many of us have spentso much time in our homes and with travel restrictions, a lot of people had to make a decision about where home was and for many people, home is not where you arefrom but where you make it and that is somewhat apt forsomebody like Gulbenkian, an Armenian, an immigrant, somebody who in fact, though he had this Parishouse where his family lived and a lot of his collection lived, he actually spend most of hisnights sleeping at hotels.

But his life's dream wasto find and make a home for his entire collection tolive together in perpetuity and you have to understand how much bigger his collection was than Frick's was.

So Gulbenkian's collectionis some six times larger than The Frick's collection and many museums and citieswere courting Gulbenkian to build his museum inaffiliation with theirs so he had very close relationships and had works on loan at museums like TheNational Gallery in London, The British Museum, even TheVictoria and Albert Museum had some conversations with him.

He was close to theMusee de Louvre in Paris and the Palace of Versailles and even The NationalGallery of Art in Washington made a proposal forWashington to be the home for the future Gulbenkian Museum.

The collection may wellhave ended up in London if events of the SecondWorld War had not caused the British government todeclare Gulbenkian temporarily as a technical enemy and it had to do with his links to the Persian ligation, the Iranian ligation.

This was overturned, he wascompensated and he was cleared but to some degree, thissleight, this offense from his adopted country was something that he was unable toget over in his life.

In the meantime, in 1942, he had moved to Lisbonwhich, during the war was one of the very few cities in Europe that had remained politicallyneutral to some degree.

Unfortunately, he did not liveto see his dream realized.

He died in 1955 in Lisbon.

In his last will of 1953 hedeclared Lisbon to be the home where his future museum would be.

And in 1957, The GulbenkianFoundation acquired the land of Santa Gertrudes Park and staged an architectural competition for this new Gulbenkian Museum and it was to be a building representing that particular moment inPortuguese modern architecture and so a number ofarchitects submit a design and a team of three architects, actually won the design.

Rui Jervis Atouguia, PedroCid, and Alberto Pessoa won this design and in 1969 it was inaugurated and the process of bringing together all the objects fromGulbenkian's private home.

Here's another room in his home in Paris, the grand salon, as well as works that had been on loanin France and England and also in the UnitedStates was a major feat, bringing them all together.

But finally with the inauguration, all of Gulbenkian's workswere brought together in the museum that bears his name.

What I love about views like this is the flow of people in the galleries, as if the works of art themselves are welcoming visitors to their home, the home that was madefor them by their founder.

So the next time you visit Lisbon, I hope that you'll take thetime to make a small pilgrimage to The Gulbenkian Museum whose simplicity of architecture belies a much richer and much more complex story.

Thank you so much for joining me on Travels With A Curator.

We'll see you next time.

.

Give a Comment