Support to culture in Africa, Latin America and Asia is not the preserve of governments. Large private funds with their own cultural policy operate worldwide. Their strategies are less coloured by political considerations and stem from socially responsible entrepreneurship or philanthropic ideals. Part one.

Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian

June 2007 -

Calouste Gulbenkian, an Armenian born in Istanbul, gave Lisbon its most important art museum. The oil baron found refuge in Portugal during World War II, and expressed his thanks in 1953 by leaving his enormous estate and private collection to his host country. That collection, ranging from medieval paintings to impressionism and portraits by Rubens and Rembrandt, is housed in the Museu Calouste Gulbenkian. The Gulbenkian foundation, one of the world's twelve largest philanthropic foundations with an annual budget of more than one hundred million euros, also has its own symphonic orchestra and choir, an art library, a branch office in London and a cultural centre in Paris. Art, education and science are the foundation's fields.

The cultural policy of the Gulbenkian foundation focuses on promoting Portuguese culture abroad, on the Armenian Diaspora in Europe, and on the former Portuguese colonies in Africa and Asia. It primarily provides grants and subsidies, for example to Garo Kurkman for his work that is devoted to Armenian artists during the era of the Ottoman Empire, and to young choreographers, opera singers and film makers in the Gulbenkian Creativity and Artistic Creation Programme.

In 2001, the foundation launched the project ArtAfrica: a virtual database of artists from Angola, Mozambique, Guinea Bissau, Cape Verdi and São Tomé e Principe. The Gulbenkian foundation discovered that participation by the Portuguese countries in the increased international interest for African contemporary art was limited. The project, which is now housed with the University of Lisbon, attempts to break through that unfamiliarity. The website offers a changing exposition and essays by prominent African curators like Okwui Enwezor and Chika Okeke. The exposition Looking Both Ways - Das Esquinas do Olhar, held in the Gulbenkian museum in 2005, is the most important accomplishment by ArtAfrica to date.