I Will Keep an Open Mind – Is It Art or Science?

Above: Plaster model of the brain by [unknown maker]. This item is one from a display at the Harry Brookes Allen Museum of Anatomy and Pathology at the University of Melbourne. The Museum and Library is part of the University’s Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry and Health Sciences.

  • The Museum is one of Australia’s largest collections of real human tissue specimens offering students and researchers a unique insight into the human body.
  • The collection includes over 10,000 dissected anatomy and pathology specimens, moulages (such as this model), death masks and historical teaching models.

Although not usually open to the general public, there are opportunities to visit the Museum including the University’s Open Day held each August. Tours of the museum are available for external health professionals and student groups by appointment.

As for this plaster model, is it art? or science? If it were in an art gallery it would be art, but this is in a museum, which would indicate science. – To answer this, I think I’ll hand this over to the brains trust.

Come to think of it, it’s been on my mind for so long … I just can’t get you out of my head!

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Not Sure About You, But, “I Leica His Art”

French humanist photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson was born on August 22, 1908,  in Chanteloup-en-Brie, Seine-et-Marne, France. He is considered a master of candid photography and an early adopter of 35 mm film.

Young Henri took holiday snapshots with his Box Brownie camera; and later experimented with a 3×4 inch view camera. By 1927, Cartier-Bresson entered a private art school followed by study at the Lhote Academyl the Parisian studio of the Cubist painter and sculptor André Lhote.

Two years later, he met American expatriate photographer Harry Crosby. Embracing the open sexuality offered by Crosby and his wife Caresse, Cartier-Bresson fell into an intense sexual relationship with Caresse that lasted until 1931, two years after Harry Crosby committed suicide.

  • This left Cartier-Bresson broken hearted and he escaped from France to the Côte d’Ivoire in French colonial Africa, for some adventure.
  •  He returned from Africa to France to recuperate from Blackwater Fever and deepened his relationship with the Surrealist artists.
  • It was around this time that he bought a Leica camera with 50 mm lens which would accompany him for many years.
  • In 1937, Cartier-Bresson married a Javanese dancer, Ratna Mohini.

During his career, Cartier-Bresson pioneered the genre of street photography capturing the proverbial decisive moment.

  • Cartier-Bresson died on August 3, 2004.

As for Photographer Cartier-Bresson – I Leica His Art

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Why Not Take Part in Viewing Some Drive-By Art

Various artworks have decorated Melbourne’s Peninsula Link Freeway. These sculptures and art pieces have been placed at various sites along the route.

  • A total of 14 sculptures have been commissioned over the next 25 years and will be rotated to various sites along the 27-kilometre stretch of freeway.
  • The sculptures will be replaced with new artwork every two years until 2037.

Motorists will have noticed artist Louise Paramor’s piece, Panorama Station, at the interchange between EastLink and Peninsula Link. Driving towards Frankston, it features a 16.5 metres in high colourful and wacky piece, which depicts a space station with a rocket launch pad.

Other sculptures include Dean Colls’ Rex Australis: The King is dead, long live the King. It depicts a giant sheep’s skull and was commissioned for the Peninsula Link Freeway in 2011 and completed in December 2012.  Dean Colls was born in Kerang in 1968 and currently lives and works in Melbourne.  Between 1987 and 1990 he developed his sculptural practice first with Richard Mueck and then Artworks in Bronze Foundry. From 1991 to 1996 he worked as a freelance sculptor and set designer in theatre, film and television industries. In 1997 he began collaborating with Melbourne sculptor Louise Skacej and since then they have produced a number of commissioned artworks for both the private and public sectors. Further information can be found on Dean Colls website.

Also on display is Phil Price’s Tree of Life.

  • Depending on how fast you travel – it might be a case of blink and miss it – however, in a traffic jam, you can savour the moment and enjoy your surroundings and appreciate your visual drive-by art.
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Tennyo “Magokoro” – The Goddess of Sincerity

Tennyo “Magokoro” (The Goddess of Sincerity) is a statue constructed by Gengen Sato, who spent more than 10 years at the task after it was commissioned by Mitsukoshi Ltd.

Consisting principally of Japanese cypress “Hinoki” about 500 years old that was selected from the woods surrounding the Kibune Shrine in Kyoto, the statue is painted with clay pigment and chemical colouring and decorated with gold and platinum. The figure represents the cloud-swathed Goddess of Sincerity descending lightly to the fruitful earth, accompanied by a phoenix bearing an offering for her tray of heavenly flowers.

Dimensions: height 10.91m, height of figure 2.73m, width of statue 4.39m, one side of hexagonal base 2.12m

Back in 1969 this was on display in the Central Hall, 1st floor, of the Nihonbashi Mitsukoshi department store in Tokyo. It was still on display in 2007, but unsure if it is still there today.

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How Many Kinds of Sweet Flowers Grow In an English Country Garden?

‘In a Chelsea Garden’  (1913) oil on canvas (87.5 cm x 61 cm)

Dora Meeson (1869–1955) was an Australian artist and an elected member of the Royal Institute of Oil Painters in London, England.

While living in London, she married fellow artist George James Coates, on 23 July, 1903. In order to establish themselves, she supported her husband’s art by producing her own artworks for ‘quick and ready’ sales in the art market.

  • After the ‘Great War’ she and her husband toured Australia for 6 months.

In Meeson’s ‘In a Chelsea Garden’ she has presented an almost idealised scene of a woman in a garden. Dressed in Grecian-style clothing and carrying a fashionable Japanese parasol, the subject is isolated from the mercantile city surroundings. This work combined Meeson’s strength in portraiture with her love of picturesque gardens. It sits firmly within the body of the British Impressionist movement during the Edwardian period.

  • ‘In a Chelsea Garden’ is on view at the: Castlemaine Art Museum, Victoria, Australia.

As a suffragette, representation of Dora Meeson’s banner for the British Artists Suffrage League was used for the design of the Australian 2003 commemorative dollar coin celebrating the ‘Centenary of Women’s Suffrage‘.

  • “Ohhh, Wham Bam Thank You Ma’am” – for Suffragette City [David Bowie acknowledgement]
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The Lady and the Unicorn

The Lady and the Unicorn is the modern title given to a series of six tapestries woven in Flanders from wool and silk, from designs drawn in Paris ca 1500. The tapestries were created in the style of mille-fleurs (meaning: “thousand flowers”).

The tapestries supposed sponsor was Antoine II Le Viste (1470-1534), a descendant of the younger branch of the Le Viste family who was quintessential within the court of Charles VIII, Louis XII and François I.

  • The tapestries ‘meaning’ is obscure, but has been interpreted as representing ‘love or understanding’.
  • Each of the six tapestries depicts a noble lady with a unicorn on her left and a lion on her right; and some include a monkey within its scene.
  • Nearly all of the six tapestries include the five sensors: Taste, Hearing, Sight, Smell, and Touch. The sixth displays the words “À mon seul désir“.

The tapestries were rediscovered in 1841 at the Boussac Castle, where they were assessed for damage and levels of dampness and mold. By 1863 they were restored and transferred to the Musée de Cluny (Musée du Moyen-Âge), in Paris.

In varied music, movie and literature genre:

  • The Lady and the Unicorn is the title of English folk guitarist John Renbourn’s 1970 album, featuring early music arrangements. The album cover includes a depiction from the tapestry “À Mon Seul Désir”.
  • The tapestries are also depicted in Tracy Chevalier’s novel ‘The Lady and the Unicorn’.
  • Hanging examples of the Unicorn tapestries are displayed on the walls of the Gryffindor Common Room in the Harry Potter series of films.

I leave you with this well known piece:
The lion and the unicorn
Were fighting for the crown
The lion beat the unicorn
All around the town

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How To Create Some Very Angry Penguins

Editors of an Australian mid-century literary and artistic avant-garde magazine ‘Angry Penguins’ were devoted to the cause of Modernism which was based on the movements of Surrealism and Expressionism. From its humble beginnings in Adelaide, South Australia, through to its editorship under Max Harris; and its latter patronage of John and Sunday Reed in Melbourne; the Angry Penguins received great literary success and notoriety.

The Angry Penguins also suffered a huge public saga shortly after its Autumn edition in 1944, which included the cover art by Sidney Nolan (see left).

That issue featured the works of Ernest Lalor Malley, who although a young unknown and unpublished garage mechanic, was considered by the editors; as a highly talented writer. Fortuitously, they had been offered 16 of Malley’s Surrealistic poetry and experimental verse entitled The Darkening Ecliptic; via his loving sister Ethel. She had sent them these works following her brother’s untimely death to Graves Disease, at the tender age of 25. Ethel also provided them with some detailed biographical information about her brother which added to his authenticity.

Shortly after Malley’s work was published, his notoriety unraveled fast to become the hoax, that it always was. His ‘poetry’ was simply a parody on surrealism, set up by two conservative poets who were skeptical of modernist poetry. The ‘hoaxers’ were  James McAuley and Harold Stewart who admitted to writing Malley’s collection in one single afternoon while on duty at the Directorate of Research and Civil Affairs, at the Defence Department’s Victoria Barracks, in Melbourne in October 1943.

    • As part of their ‘experimental hoax’, they consulted the books on the shelves within their shared office room.
    • From this, the ‘Malley’ prose began, consisting of a variety of quotations taken from Shakespeare; along with words taken at random from various dictionaries; and extracts from a USA government technical report on the breeding grounds of mosquitoes.

    The following is one of ‘Malley’s’ works:

    Night Piece
    The swung torch scatters seeds
    In the umbelliferous dark
    And a frog makes guttural comment
    On the naked and trespassing
    Nymph of the lake.
    The symbols were evident,
    Though on park-gates
    The iron birds looked disapproval
    With rusty invidious beaks.
    Among the water-lilies
    A splash — white foam in the dark!
    And you lay sobbing then
    Upon my trembling intuitive arm.

    It did not take long for the ‘hoax’ to be exposed, for on 25 June, 1944, the newspaper magazine supplement for the Sydney Sun exposed the ‘Ern Malley’ works as a hoax.

    • As a consequence, the story was reported around the world ridiculing the literacy pretensions of the ‘Melbourne modernists’.
    • By September, 1944, three months after its publication, the South Australian police impounded the ‘Ern Malley’ issue of  ‘Angry Penguins’ on the grounds that seven of his poems were considered obscene.

    Above: Some of the artistic painters who were members of the Angry Penguins movement. They included John Perceval, Arthur Boyd, Sidney Nolan, Danila Vassilieff, Albert Tucker and Joy Hester.

      • The letters from ‘Ethel Malley’ are contained in the John and Sunday Reed Papers purchased by the State Library of Victoria from Barrett Reid, a librarian, poet, writer editor and friend of the Reeds.
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Angels We Have Heard on High

Indonesian sculptor and installation artist Heri Dono was born in Jakarta on June 12, 1960. He studied at the Indonesian Art Institute (Institut Seni Indonesia) in Jogjakarta, where he won the Prize for the Best Painting in 1981 and again in 1985.

These days  he focuses on installation art, working with varied world-wide materials. In his Indonesian themes he focuses on the life of ‘ordinary folk’.

Dono, who still lives and works in Jogjakarta, mixes humorist comments in his work on political and social problems within Indonesia. His style is often placed in the art form of ‘New Internationalism’, which forms a new art form for artists who challenge the Western hegemony of art, in contrast with the New Art Movement in the 1970s-1980s which favoured Western expressionism in art; without local traditions.

  • In 1998, Dono won a Prince Claus Award.

Above image: ‘Flying Angels‘ (2006) polyester, clock parts, electronic components, paint, wood, cotton gauze,  Stylistically Inspired by Flash Gordon cartoons and American robots of the 1950s. They also draw on traditional Wayang Indonesian puppetry. The clock pieces and electronics help propel the wings whilst they chirp and tweet in discordant tones.  On display in ramp way at the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, (Gift of Gene and Brian Sherman).

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This Berrie Fine Glaswegian Lass Must Not Be Extinguished

Above: University Cafe (2011) 24 x 19 cm from a series of drawings of Glasgow cafes.

Scottish illustrator Christine Berrie is a born and bred Glaswegian, living in the town of Bishopbriggs near Glasgow. The daughter of a draftsman for ICI Petrol Chemicals Division she was fascinated with her father’s drawings of pressure vessels and storage tanks during her youth. This fascination has led her towards a love of diagrammatic drawing, using graphite pencils. Berrie’s drawings combine industrial and nostalgic themes especially in her local shopfront work. Through her exploration of the everyday objects and habitats that surround her, she manages to find the extraordinary in the often very ordinary.

  • Berrie studied Bachelor of Art (Visual Communication) at Glasgow School of Art; and
  • Master of Art (Illustration) from the Royal College of Art, London
  • Worked in London for 7 years after completing her MA and then returned to Glasgow in 2009 working as a freelance illustrator.
  • Uses mostly uses graphite and colour pencil as well as collage work combining found imagery and photos with blocks of colours and textures.

Berrie likes to draw shop fronts often displaying a range of small objects. She enjoys typography and old signage and has many featured in her scrapbooks. She sometimes works at location but also works from photos and will expand on the image when back in her studio.

Below: Fire extinguishers (2005) graphite and colour pencil 59 x 40 cm from a series drawings for an exhibition at Pentagram.

Header image: Shop Fronts (2010) graphite and colour pencil 28.5cm x 30 cm. The London Magazine for Little Shop Awards.

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Let’s Celebrate ’88 – All Over Again

(Above: Literary Heights by John Underwood)

early 30 years ago, Australia’s north-eastern state of Queensland hosted World Expo (aka Expo ’88),  in its capital city of Brisbane. World Expo ’88 was celebrated over a six-month period from 30 April-30 October, 1988 and its theme was “Leisure in the Age of Technology“.

The Expo fair was the largest event of the 1988 Bicentennial celebrations and attracted more than 15,760,000 visitors who bought tickets worth A$175 million. The event also helped promote Queensland as a tourist destination and it spurred a major re-development of the South Brisbane city site of South Bank.

A part of this Expo were the series of 90 life size sculpture forms which were created and commissioned by local artist John Underwood.  His statues, made from coated fibre-glass and plaster-of-Paris; depicted the thin line between reality and various moments of life, captured and frozen in time.

Some examples of Underwood’s sculptures which appeared in little nooks and crannies around the Expo site at South Bank included:

  • a photographer,
  • a couple sitting on a park bench,
  • men mending fishing nets,
  • a young girl climbing a palm tree,
  • a boy scout,
  • lifesavers,
  • an acrobat riding a bicycle on a trapeze,
  • another acrobat balancing on some stools; and
  • a drover and his mate, (to mention but a few).

(Above: The Drover and His Mate by John Underwood).

At the conclusion of Expo ’88 many of Underwood’s works were purchased by private collectors as well as the Brisbane City Council and private enterprise.

Two of the sculptures still reside at South Bank – one is hanging in Stanley Street Plaza and the other is located in the South Bank Visitor Centre.

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This Proves That Hele’s the Real Deal

The Pink Dressing Gown’ (1962) oil on board 90cm x 59.5cm

Australian artist Sir Ivor Henry Thomas Hele, (Ivor Hele) was born on 13 June 1912. At the age of 15 he studied drawing and painting in Paris and Munich. By the age of 20, he married Jean Berry. By 1957 he divorced his first wife; and married June Weatherly.

  • Hele was severely self-critical and only ever held two exhibitions of his work; (1931 and 1958) and often burned paintings he was dissatisfied with.

He was the first appointed Australian WW2 artist, serving in New Guinea and North Africa. He also served as a war artist in the Korean War, therefore becoming the longest serving war artist for the Australian War Memorial.

  • During the War years, he completed more commissioned works than any other Australian artist in the history of Australian art.

Contemplation‘ oil on board 29×59.5 cm

Hele was also one of Australia’s most prestigious portrait prize winners, winning the Archibald Prize five times, including portraits of:

  • Laurie Thomas (1951),
  • Sir Henry Simpson Newland (1953)
  • Rt Hon R G Menzies (1954)
  • Robert Campbell Esq. (1955); and
  • Self Portrait (1957)

Hele was appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in 1954. This was upgraded to a Commander (CBE) in 1969. In the New Year’s Honours of 1983 he was named a Knight Bachelor for his services to art.

  • He died on 2nd  December 1993.

Through his art, Hele be remembered by all.

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The “Sage of the Wilderness” was born in the Kitchen

Above: William Mack, “The Sage of the Wilderness“. (Photo by Diane Arbus).

At the time Diane Arbus took this photograph of William Mack (aka “The Sage of the Wilderness“) he was a 72 year-old, German, ex-merchant seaman living on his Pension. His day began at 5.30 a.m. walking down Third Avenue, New York, in the freezing dawn picking empty bottles out of garbage cans and loading them into his baby carriage. He would then stop off at select bars which were very like private clubs, for  breakfast; and the early morning special extra free drink. He claimed that ‘Life wasn’t supposed to make sense’. 

  • Mack lived on Third Avenue in a room which was 7 feet by 8 feet. He filled it with his belongings which included:

46 rolled up pieces of string, 38 cigar butts in a bowl, 35 empty bottles, 20 rings, 19  brushes for hair, 18 shopping bags, 11 bracelets, 10 screwdrivers, 9 pliers, 9 umbrellas, 9 belts, 8 augers, 7 paint scrapers, 7 pairs of scissors, 6 saws, 6 necklaces, 5 hammers, 5 segments of broken mirror, 5 canes, 4 watches, 3 earrings, 2 pin-up pictures of Sophia Loren and one each of Brigitte Bardot and Julie Newman.

Other items included: a cowbell, a Hopalong Cassidy gun and holster, wagon, pink doll carriage with a sort of under-slung hammock, toy ukulele, jar full of plastic umbrella tips, some Blue Seal Pomade, a jar of Maraschino Cocktail Cherries,  a medicine dropper, squashed coffee pot, pair of brown children’s shoes hanging by the laces, a bogus detective badge, a plastic carnation, fox tail, one copy each of The Koran and The Holy Bible, a 1959 horoscope, ladder, guide to sexual harmony in marriage (Mr. Mack was never married), an English-Arabic Dictionary, a pair of white lady nurse’s shoes,  Guidebook of US Coins and some Breath O’ Pine all purpose cleanser.

  • When people asked him why he collected so many things his favourite answer was “It’s good for my rheumatism and when people ask me where I was born I like to say – I was born in the kitchen“. – He could tell because he heard the water running.
  • The last time Arbus saw him he said: “It’s a great life if you don’t weaken, but you are bound to weaken one day”.
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Dreams are Ten a Penny for Thomas McKenney

Thomas McKenney served as the United States Superintendent of Indian Trade in Georgetown, Washington, D.C. and later as the head of the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA). He initiated the government’s commissioning of portraits. Like many others at the time, he believed that the indigenous American people were nearing extinction; and he sought ways to preserve their history and culture.

McKenney first tried to collect artifacts from various indigenous tribes, then thought of having portraits painted for the government. About this time, he met Charles Bird King, whose talent he appreciated. King painted the subjects in his own studio, as McKenney easily obtained the consent for the portraits from Native American leaders coming to Washington to do business with the US through his new department.

  • King’s portraits gained widespread publicity beyond Washington, as McKenney broadened his project by publishing a book on Native Americans.

In 1829 McKenney began what would become many years’ worth of work on the three-volume work, The History of the Indian Tribes of North America. The project featured the many portraits of Native Americans, containing mostly King’s lithograph forms, accompanied by an essay by the author James Hall.

After the administration changed and McKenney left,  the agency donated the Native American portrait collection to the National Institute, but shoddy care and displays kept them from the public eye. When the National Institute deteriorated, it gave its works in 1858 to the Smithsonian Institute.

King’s portraits were displayed among similar paintings by the New York artist John Mix Stanley in a gallery containing a total of 291 paintings of Native American portraits and scenes.

  • On January 24, 1865, a fire destroyed the paintings in this gallery, though a few of King’s works were saved before the flames spread.
  • Representations of many of the lost paintings have been found in McKenney’s lithograph collection that supported the book (as featured above).

If you want a greater ‘King hit’ see bio info for Charles Bird King.

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The Foreman of British Illustration

British author and illustrator Michael Foreman was born a month before his father died, on 21 March 1938. He grew up in Pakefield, near Lowestoft, Suffolk, where his mother kept the village shop. He studied at Lowestoft School of Art, and later in London at the Royal College of Art, where he won a scholarship to the United States.

  • He married his first wife, author Jane Charters, in 1959.
  • Their son Mark was born the following year.
  • A travel scholarship took him all around the world, drawing landscapes, architecture and wildlife.

Foreman learned to draw for the newspapers and for the police, drawing female suspects when Identikit only catered for men.

Foreman won the 1982 and 1989 Kate Greenaway Medals for British children’s book illustration.

  • For his contribution as a children’s illustrator, in 1988, he was a U.K. nominee and again in 2010 for the biennial, International Hans Christian Andersen Award; the highest recognition available to creators of children’s books.
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Callooh! Callay! for Calouste is Okay

Above: Dragonfly brooch once adorned by Sarah Bernhardt to whom it was lent by friend Calouste Gulbenkian. A corsage ornament which consists of dragonfly with griffon’s paws and green female torso whose face is supposed to be of Sarah herself. One of Lalique’s finest pieces. Gold, enamel, moonstones and chrysoprase stone (from Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation).

Sarah Bernhardt’s friend, Calouste Sarkis Gulbenkian  was born on 23 March 1869 in in Üsküdar, in Constantinople (now Istanbul), during the Ottoman Empire. He was the son of an Armenian oil importer/exporter. His father sent him to be educated at King’s College London, where he studied petroleum engineering, and then to examine the Russian oil industry at Baku.

In 1896 Gulbenkian fled the Ottoman Empire along with his family, as a result of the Hamidian massacres. They ended up in Egypt, where Gulbenkian met Alexander Mantashev, a prominent Armenian oil magnate and philanthropist. Mantashev introduced Gulbenkian to influential contacts in Cairo. Still in his twenties, Gulbenkian moved to London where he arranged deals within the oil business. He became a naturalised British citizen in 1902. In 1907, he helped arrange the merger of Royal Dutch Petroleum Company with “Shell” Transport and Trading Company Ltd.

As a British businessman and philanthropist, he played a major role in making the petroleum reserves of the Middle East available to Western development.  His habit of retaining five percent of the shares of the oil companies he developed earned him the nickname “Mr. Five Percent”. By the end of his life he had become one of the world’s wealthiest individuals and his art acquisitions considered one of the greatest private collections.

Gulbenkian amassed a huge fortune and an art collection which he kept in a private museum at his Paris house. His four-storey, three-basement house on Avenue d’Iéna was said to be crammed with art, a situation ameliorated in 1936 when he lent 30 paintings to the National Gallery, London and his Egyptian sculpture to the British Museum.

  • He left France in late 1942 for Lisbon and lived in a suite at the luxurious Aviz Hotel, until his death on 20 July 1955, at the age of 86. He is buried at St. Sarkis Armenian Church, London.
  • At the time of his death, Gulbenkian’s fortune was estimated at between US$280-$840 million.
  • After undisclosed sums willed in trust to his descendants, the remainder of his fortune and art collection were willed to the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation (aka Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian).
  • The Foundation was to act for charitable, educational, artistic and scientific purposes; and the named trustees were his long-time friends Baron Radcliffe of Werneth, Lisbon attorney José de Azeredo Perdigão, and his son-in-law Kevork Loris Essayan.
  • Its headquarters and the Calouste Gulbenkian Museum (Museu Calouste Gulbenkian) in Lisbon display his art collection.

O frabjous day – thanks to Gulbenkian’s philanthrop(a)y!

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