Controversies News France

Management crisis at France’s national art school

Students and professors protest the director’s “absurd and counter-productive” demand that senior staff step down

Students at the École Nationale supérieure des beaux-arts in Paris hanged protest banners

The ongoing conflict between Nicolas Bourriaud, the director of the École Nationale supérieure des beaux-arts in Paris, France’s most prestigious art school, and his staff has escalated. During a meeting of the Education Council on 20 May, Bourriaud said he is unable to continue working at the school unless Frédéric Jousset, the chairman of the school’s board, Gaïta Leboissetier, the director of studies, and Thierry Jopeck, the deputy director, leave their positions.

In response, 14 out of 20 professors elected to the Administrative Council sent a letter on 26 May to the Minister of Culture Aurélie Filippetti, opposing what they say is an “absurd and counter-productive demand that goes against all the advances we’ve accomplished intending to develop a collective and innovative programme”.

Nicolas Bourriaud’s tenure as director has met with criticism from both inside and outside the school. Students and professors protested in October 2013 when many of the art studios were shut for three days to prepare for a private party honouring Ralph Lauren. The fashion designer had donated €1.5m to restore the school’s amphitheatre, decorated by Paul Delaroche in 1843, although this gift was denounced by many at the school as crass commercialisation.

Meanwhile, students have called on the Minister of Culture to resolve the situation, which they say is wider-reaching than a simple squabble between colleagues. Claire Tenu, one of six students on the education and administrative councils, says that “it is necessary first to end this interpersonal conflict… then engage in a debate on the school and the teaching of the arts in France”.

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