Ambassador Garen Nazarian, left, and Archbishop Khajag Barsamian, with a Gorky painting on display

Founder’s Day at the Calouste Gulbenkian Center in Lisbon


LISBON — Archbishop Khajag Barsamian, Pontifical Legate of the Western Europe and the Representative of the Armenian Church to the Holy See was invited by the Gulbenkian Foundation, to take part in the official ceremonies on the occasion of its Founder’s Day on July 20 in Lisbon.

From left, Martin Essayan, Archbishop Khajag Barsamian, Antonio Feijo and Razmig Panossian, in front of a painting of Calouste Gulbenkian

During his visit to the Gulbenkian Foundation on that day, Archbishop Barsamian first had the opportunity to meet with one of the foundation board members, Martin Essayan (the grandson of Calouste Gulbenkian’s sister Rita) and Razmig Panossian, director of the Armenian Section of the Foundation. Then together they met the newly elected president of the foundation, Professor Antonio Feijo. During about half an hour meeting at the president’s office, Barsamian congratulated Feijo and wished him and all the board members good health to continue the important mission of the foundation. Then they spoke about their good friend the late Vartan Gregorian. Professor Feijo met with Dr. Gregorian while he was studying at Brown University and later they became good friends. After the meeting, together they walked to the gardens of the foundation and placed flowers in front of the statue of Calouste Sarkis Gulbenkian.

From left, Martin Essayan, Archbishop Khajag Barsamian, Antonio Feijo, a Gulbenkian Foundation board member, and Razmig Panossian, in front of a statue of Calouste Gulbenkian

On the same day there was a mass at the church Igreja de Nossa Senhora do Rosario Fatima in memory of Calouste Gulbenkian. Archbishop Barsamian was invited to be present at this celebration and at the conclusion to offer remarks and prayers. In his remark Barsamian reminded the board members and the staff of the foundation of a passage from the opening pages of the Bible, from the Book of Genesis 1:27-28 : “Therefore God created humankind in His own image…  God blessed them, and said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish and of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living thing.”

The archbishop reminded everyone present that this passage from the Bible testifies of the great possibilities that God gave to mankind — right from the very beginning.

He continued, saying “today, as we remember the extraordinary life and accomplishments of Calouste Sarkis Gulbenkian, we can testify that he understood this miraculous passage from the Bible.

“Indeed, it shaped his credo: What might be thought to be impossible becomes possible when human ingenuity connects with the words of the Bible.

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“Calouste Gulbenkian’s deep faith played a major role in his monumental accomplishments.  He felt that his God-given abilities were an empowerment — at the very heart of his business successes and the foundation he established. Calouste Gulbenkian was able to overcome the hardships of being an immigrant — a stranger in a strange land — and transform that experience into the larger work of an architect who joined East to West.

“Our world today needs individuals like Calouste Gulbenkian. He was very proud of his identity as an Armenian, very comfortable in expressing it. But he was also a global personality. His many international philanthropic endeavors – establishing schools, hospitals, and churches – made him a good steward and citizen of the whole world.”

Then Barsamian expressed his appreciation to the past and present board members of the Gulbenkian Foundation who continue to promote the arts, charitable benevolence, education, and science in countless cultures and countries – empowering people worldwide while consistently serving as stewards of the Armenian community as well.

In the afternoon, Barsamian, together with Ambassador Garen Nazarian, the Armenian Ambassador to the Holy See and Portugal and the latter’s wife Nana, visited the Arshile Gorky and Jorge Queiroz Exhibition at the Gulbenkian Museum.

Ambassador Garen Nazarian, left, and Archbishop Khajag Barsamian, with several works of Arshile Gorky on display

This exhibition aims to bring together two artists, one modern, Arshile Gorky (Khorkom, Armenia, c. 1904– Sherman, Connecticut, 1948), and the other contemporary, Jorge Queiroz (Lisbon, 1966). The initial idea was simply to observe the way in which Gorky’s work ‘speaks’ to Queiroz. And Queiroz transformed the project into an installation in which he welcomes, or receives, Gorky’s visit. As the artist mentioned in an accompanying text, he “frequented Gorky to the point of incorporating him into the vision for the exhibition (…) and Gorky was there [in the exhibition, in the studio] almost always sitting in black and white, like his photograph.”

Due to its long-standing relationship with Armenia, the Gulbenkian Foundation has on long-term loan 57 works by Arshile Gorky, property of the Diocese of the Armenian Church of America (Eastern) in New York, and another three works in its Modern Art Centre collection. It was from this group that Queiroz selected the paintings and drawings to be presented in this exhibition, all belonging to the final period in Gorky’s career, in the 1940s, unanimously regarded as his best phase, in which the artist reached full maturity and achieved a visual language that was entirely his own.

Finally, both the Archbishop and Ambassador and Mrs. Nazarian attended a special concert at the Concert Hall of the Gulbenkian Center. President of Portugal Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa and the president of the Gulbenkian Foundation made remarks at the beginning of the concert. Archbishop Barsamian had the opportunity to greet the president of Portugal, who thanked the archbishop for his presence at the celebration.

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