José Manuel Rodrigues Berardo was born on the island of Madeira, Portugal, on 4 July 1944.
After finishing primary school, he began a course for trainee accountants and at the age of thirteen and a half joined the Madeira Wine Company. It was at this time that his passion for collecting first surfaced. He started, with methodical thoroughness, by collecting stamps, matchboxes and ship postcards, taking advantage of his contact with the tourists arriving by ship at the port of Funchal.
In 1963, at the age of 18, he emigrated to South Africa, where he began work in Johannesburg at a farm supplies shop, of which he became a partner. This brought him into contact with the mining business and, foreseeing the rise in the price of gold, he became involved in recycling mining waste, acquiring and reopening decommissioned mines. He soon became owner of several refineries and gold and diamond mines, broadening his interests to include banking and the stock market.
Never forgetting his personal life, he married Carolina Gonçalves in 1969. Two years later, his son was born, followed a year later by a daughter. Socially integrated and with a family, José Berardo continued to prosper and diversify his business interests, entering the marble and granite business and then the oil, telecommunications, computer, paper and even film industries.
With greater financial resources available, it was at this time that he decided to begin his first art collection.
In the 1980s, he was appointed president of the Bank of Lisbon and shortly afterwards joined the Advisory Council to the President of the Republic of South Africa. Adopting an anti-apartheid stance, he played an active role in the country and within the National Party to put an end to the system of racial segregation.
In the late 1980s, he expanded his businesses into more diverse locations, such as Canada, Portugal and Australia. His constant travelling, the heightened tension in South Africa and the call of his homeland led to his return to Portugal.
In Portugal, he continued to develop his business interests in a whole range of areas.
He started out in the tobacco industry, but soon became a major player in the banking, hospitality, real estate, media, cork, wine, fashion and many other sectors. In 1988, he fulfilled a dream when he bought Quinta do Monte Palace in Funchal, which had been abandoned for many years, and donated it to the foundation he established in his own name and of which he is president. The estate, which underwent major rebuilding work and reforestation, reopened to the public on 5 October 1991 and is currently one of Madeira's most prominent landmarks for the way it combines nature with some of his collections.
In the 1990s, he established as his main priority that of creating the Modern and Contemporary Art Collection. His contacts with experts and the advice provided were essential in outlining a theme – the twentieth century – and strategy for acquiring exceptional works of art. With a keen eye for a market opportunity and guided by a natural intuition, he constructed the Coleção Berardo, today considered one of the finest private collections in Europe and an international reference point.
This collection is today the basis of the holdings which the Fundação de Arte Moderna e Contemporânea – Coleção Berardo has exhibited to the public since 2007 at the Museu Coleção Berardo in Belém, Lisbon. By means of a 10-year loan agreement, the creation of the museum allowed Portugal, in partnership with the Fundação Berardo, to hold onto a unique modern and contemporary art collection that acts as a distinguishing factor and a national and international cultural attraction.
Since opening the Museu Coleção Berardo, he has inaugurated the Underground Museum in the cellars of Aliança Vinhos de Portugal, in northern Portugal, where other collections are exhibited, and Budha Edén at Quinta dos Loridos, Bombarral, north-west of Lisbon. With some 35 hectares of space, this was idealised and conceived in response to the destruction of the giant Buddhas of Bamiyan by the Taliban in Afghanistan, in what was one of the greatest acts of cultural barbarism ever perpetrated, eradicating masterpieces of the late Gandhara art period from memory.
A collector with uncommonly eclectic tastes, he has built up a number of highly diverse collections. For his dedication to culture, the arts and their dissemination to a wider audience, he has been distinguished on various occasions in Portugal and also abroad.
José Manuel Rodrigues Berardo is a businessman with interests all over the world, but it is when he is surrounded by beauty, in art and nature, that he feels most fulfilled.