Calouste Sarkis Gulbenkian was the Roman Abramovich of his era, making his millions from oil but investing in the world’s best art rather than footballers. Born of wealthy Armenian parents in Istanbul in 1869, he followed his father into the oil industry and became oil consultant to the Ottoman court. In 1911 he set up the Oil Petroleum Company, raking in five percent of the company’s vast profits, most of which he invested in England where he chose to live. During World War II, his Turkish background made him unwelcome in Britain, so Gulbenkian moved to Portugal, which offered him tax-free status and a secure home. By his death in 1955, he had accumulated one of the best private art collections in the world. His dying wish was that all his collection should be displayed in one place, and this was granted in 1969 – a century after his birth – with the opening of the Museu Calouste Gulbenkian. The museum continues to buy works of art with his funds to this day, much of it for the Centro de Arte Moderna, which was opened in 1984.

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