Established in 1956 as a Portuguese foundation for the whole of humanity, the Foundation's original purpose focused on fostering knowledge and raising the quality of life of persons throughout the fields of the arts, charity, science and education. Bequeathed by the last will and testament of Calouste Sarkis Gulbenkian, the Foundation is of perpetual duration and undertakes its activities structured around its headquarters in Lisbon (Portugal) and its delegations in Paris (France) and London (the United Kingdom).
The Foundation has an orchestra and a choir that perform throughout the year within a regular season, and organises solo and collective exhibitions of work by Portuguese and foreign artists. It also organises international conferences, meetings and courses, awards subsidies and scholarships for specialist studies and doctorates in Portugal and abroad, and supports programmes and projects of a scientific, educational, artistic and social nature. Moreover, the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation is actively involved in publishing, especially through its programme for university textbooks. It also fosters co-operation projects with Portuguese-speaking African countries and East Timor pursuing the Millennium goals, promotes Portuguese culture abroad, and operates a programme to preserve evidence of the Portuguese presence in the world. In addition to the activities pursued in Portugal and abroad for the promotion of Portuguese culture, the Foundation supports the Armenian Diaspora worldwide in order to preserve its language and culture.