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Nicolas Bourriaud unceremoniously fired from École des Beaux-Arts


#1

http://m3.artspace-static.com/media/a-s/articles/1121-988085316273/global-curators-2014-900x450-c.jpg

Hili Perlson of Artnet News reports that Nicolas Bourriaud has been fired from his directorship of École des Beaux-Arts amid rumors of a nepotistic replacement orchestrated by the Minister of Culture Fleur Pellerin and her friend, French actress Julie Gayet, President François Hollande’s girlfriend. The whole fiasco sounds like a plot out of a bad Disney movie, but who knows these days. Perlson reports:

Nicolas Bourriaud has been dismissed from his position as director of the École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts, the distinguished National Fine Art Academy in Paris, by the Minister of Culture, Fleur Pellerin.

Pellerin fired Bourriaud unceremoniously on Wednesday morning, after a 45-minute exchange. According to the French paper Le Figaro, during their lengthy meeting, the Minister of Culture explained that she had “another educational project in mind” for the Fine Art Academy. When Bourriaud pressed for clarity on the nature of this educational project, he received no satisfactory reply.

Bourriaud then posted a message on his Facebook page saying: “Dear friends, the Minister [of Culture] has just fired me ‘for reasons related to a change of direction’ of her politics … Not a single factual argument in the course of a 45-minute discussion.”

A call for applications to succeed Bourriaud has been launched, and entries can be submitted until July 21. However, the French media reports that his successor has long been decided upon.

Interestingly, the first two sources to break the story were the popular satirical weekly Le canard Enchaîné and Closer, a celebrity tabloid.

According to these two sources, the decision to sack Bourriaud was orchestrated by French actress Julie Gayet, the romantic companion of President François Hollande.

These sources also claim that Bourriaud, whose contract doesn’t end for another few years, is to be replaced by Eric de Chassey, current director of the Villa Médicis and husband of the actress Anne Consigny (who starred in the 2007 drama The Diving Bell and the Butterfly) who is, in turn, very close to Hollande’s lover, Julie Gayet.

Read the rest of the article on Artnet News.

*Image of Nicolas Bourriaud courtesy ArtSpace


#2

Here’s a letter of support from the team at Galleria Continua:

Madame la Ministre de la Culture,

J’écris cette lettre ouverte dans l’espoir qu’elle vous parvienne et vous engage à réexaminer la décision de limoger Nicolas Bourriaud, alors à la tête de l’Ecole Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts de Paris.

Nous nous sommes rencontrés à La Havane au National le 11 mai dernier et avons longuement parlé de diffusion, de décentralisation de la culture comme un acte fondamental pour la croissance de la sensibilité et comme moyen d’ouverture entre les peuples. Nous nous sommes même dit que l’art et la culture permettaient d’apprendre à aimer les différences et à ne pas en avoir peur (tellement important aujourd’hui).

Quelle inoubliable conversation !

De plus, j’avais personnellement accompagné le Président de la République François Hollande durant l’inauguration de Monumenta 2012 au Grand Palais en l’introduisant au travail de Daniel Buren. Il s’agissait de la première sortie publique du nouveau président. Lorsque des journalistes l’interrogèrent sur ce démarrage artistique, il répondit : « La culture doit être le moteur pour la croissance de l’éducation et de l’économie de la France. »

Quelle formidable réponse !

Je suis abasourdi, car je n’arrive pas à comprendre qu’un homme comme Nicolas Bourriaud, qui incarne dans le monde entier la France intellectuelle et innovante au plus haut niveau, puisse être congédié sans autre forme de procès. Il est une référence internationale de la culture contemporaine mondiale et possède un immense talent pour comprendre et découvrir les scènes émergentes de la créativité.

Alors pourquoi ce gâchis, pourquoi ce choix si incohérent tombant comme un couperet ?

On vous a surement mal informé.

Nous avons le droit de connaître vos vraies raisons, car ici on parle de la direction d’un des plus importants établissements d’art, de culture, d’éducation et de son avenir en France et dans le monde. Dans ces temps difficiles pour la France et l’Europe, démocratie, justice et exemplarité doivent être au cœur de toute autorité politique.

Après lecture de votre communiqué, la décision de renvoyer le directeur de l’Ecole des Beaux-Arts me semble encore plus illogique.

À bien vous lire, Nicolas Bourriaud est exactement la personne qu’il faut pour répondre aux objectifs fixés. Sa politique de direction et stratégie est tout à fait pensée, les actions qu’il a déjà mises en place on ne peut plus concrètes et allant indéniablement dans le sens désiré.

Avez-vous lu les livres et écrits de Nicolas Bourriaud ? Esthétique relationnelle, Postproduction (La culture comme scénario : comment l’art reprogramme le monde contemporain), Radicant (pour une esthétique de la globalisation), forme de vie (L’art moderne et l’invention de soi). cet…

À propos de « diversité sociale et culturelle », Pascale Marthine Tayou est le premier artiste africain à devenir enseignant aux Beaux-Arts. Il a été appelé par Nicolas Bourriaud.

Un des lieux d’art les plus connus et innovants au monde – le Palais de Tokyo – n’a-t-il pas été crée par Nicolas Bourriaud et Jérôme Sans ?

Avez vous lu le projet de Nicolas bourriaud pour l’ENSBA?

Ici quelques objectifs mentionnés:

  • Refonder la gouvernance de l’établissement, afin d’aboutir à un partage collectif du projet et une dynamique de changement.
  • Une campagne de modernisation et de rénovation des infrastructures et des bâtiments.
  • Se donner les moyens d’un développement international.

Je vis et travaille dans le milieu de l’art depuis une trentaine d’années et Galleria Continua existe depuis vingt-cinq ans. Pendant tout ce temps, diversité et décentralisation ont été au cœur de nos préoccupations. Nous avons d’abord ouvert une première galerie d’art contemporain dans une bourgade toscane en 1990 (San Gimignano), puis en Chine en 2004 (Beijing) la première galerie d’art avec un programme international, ensuite en 2007 dans un moulin et une grande friche industriel dans le village de Boissy-le-Châtel en Seine et Marne, et venons tout juste d’initier un nouveau projet culturel à Cuba (La Havane) ; tout cela en soutenant un programme d’artistes des cinq continents. Ceci pour vous dire que Nicolas Bourriaud est la personne idéal pour relancer l’ENSBA.

Sachez que j’écris cette lettre parce qu’après avoir eu le plaisir de vous connaître, je ne pense pas qu’elle soit inutile. En outre, je suis intimement persuadé que Nicolas Bourriaud est la meilleur personne pour cette mission et a fait véritablement un excellent travail à la tête de l’Ecole des Beaux-Arts de Paris permettant à la France de rayonner dans le monde.
En vous remerciant par avance de l’attention que vous voudrez bien accorder à ce message, et dans l’espoir que celui-ci permette à Nicolas Bourriaud de poursuivre sa mission, je vous prie d’agréer, Madame la Ministre, l’expression de ma considération la plus distinguée.

Lorenzo Fiaschi,
et mes amis et partenaires Mario Cristiani et Maurizio Rigillo,
et toute l’équipe de Galleria Continua.


#3

Another update from Bourriaud, who has published a statement with Spike, titled “I didn’t know I was putting my head in a noose.” A snippet below.

One month ago the French Minister of Culture dismissed Nicolas Bourriaud from his post as director of the École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts, in an astonishing decision that caused a storm in French - and international - media, replete with rumors of high-level intrigue and allegations of nepotism. Now Bourriaud tells his version of events. What did the renowned curator and theorist’s dismissal have to do with Ralph Lauren? How come the students couldn’t work in their studios for six days beforehand? And what are his hopes for the future of the institution?
The board of directors of the École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts de Paris – the National School of Art in Paris, of which I was director – was scheduled to meet on July 2nd 2015. There were major items on the agenda: firstly I was to present the project for 2015-2018, which was drawn up after multiple meetings involving seven working groups that included students. Next I was to announce the contacts I had made with the Moroccan Sovereign Fund with a view to setting up an annex of the school in Rabat – a venture that would make the Beaux-Arts de Paris the first art school in Europe to expand abroad.

Since my appointment as director in December 2011, I had been working on what you might call a “branding mission” that emphasized the school’s historical model, its DNA: atelier teaching comparable to the German system, but balanced out by theoretical and practical classes very similar to those of British art schools. The Beaux-arts de Paris is something more than just a school. It is home to a collection of 400,000 works and an exhibition space on the banks of the Seine. It is also a publishing house that issues some ten titles a year. This makes the school an educational complex, an art world writ small. This original model is exportable, and my job was to manage the school, not as just another tertiary institution, but as a giant art centre whose students would be both exhibitors and the initial public. These characteristics go back two centuries and I was simply trying to adapt them, one by one, to the demands of our time. The creation of an annex in Morocco would have given the school a foothold in Africa, which is a vast pool of talent sometimes inadequately guided by a network of art schools insufficiently receptive to the international art scene.

The third point I wanted to bring up at the board meeting was the plan for a university foundation, a body that would provide the school with funding along the same lines as the great American universities. A law firm had been hired to design the foundation and all that was needed to set the wheels turning was approval by the board of directors.

A week before July 2nd, however, the Ministry of Culture cancelled the meeting. Instead, I was called in by the minister to “discuss the school’s future”. As soon as discussion got underway I realized that nobody in the room had the slightest idea of what was involved. The minister and her advisers were technocrats with no notion of the international issues at stake in art schools, or of our plans, or of what had been achieved in the preceding year. And that year had been a fruitful one: I had been able to reorganize the administrative team and replace a bureaucrat director of studies with a teacher/artist. For the first time, an artist, Jean-Luc Vilmouth, was the school’s administrative head, as is the practice in Germany. We had abolished the age limit for applicants, set up a working group with our foreign students to make the school more international, reformed the fifth year so as to let students concentrate on their graduation exhibitions, reorganized student services, and created a new post specifically devoted to facilitating contact between students and the administration. These were the things I thought would be up for discussion. But the day before the meeting, the weekly newspaper Canard Enchaîné revealed that I was going to be fired and replaced by a friend of President Hollande’s companion, Julie Gayet. There was such an outcry in the media that the minister had to launch an urgent call for candidates in the month of August, when everyone is on holidays.

The previous year, after certain disturbances in the school, a small group of teachers together with a few members of my team and a handful of students had already tried to get me sacked. The pretext was a dinner organized as a thank-you for an important sponsorship venture: Ralph Lauren was donating 1,500,000 euros to restore the school’s main lecture theatre; an extraordinary room, but decrepit, unrenovated for a century, and unusable for teaching. As a rule, this kind of festive event takes place in the glass-roofed Palais des Études and causes a minimum of inconvenience. As we had already signed an exclusive fashion-use contract for that space with Lanvin, however, we suggested to Ralph Lauren that we could use the Cour de Chimay, which is in the open air but surrounded by ateliers. This was in late September/early October 2013: there weren’t many students around.

Those teachers who had already contested my appointment were delighted to find the perfect excuse, going on about my “neoliberal” project and how the school was being sold down the river. No one made a connection to the recent budget cuts: since 2012, 800,000 euros had been sliced off our annual allocation, and the kind of money needed for renovation simply wasn’t there. This was why we needed Ralph Lauren, not to mention the other sponsors I had brought to the school and the appointment of a sponsorship and partnerships coordinator. This proactive policy, which I’m very proud of, enabled the Beaux-arts de Paris to double its resources from three to six million euros between 2008 and 2011. And apart from those six fatal days, all this had been achieved without the slightest interference with the school’s programs and teaching.

During the academic year that followed, I had to deal with a ministerial inspection carried out by a sour official hostile to everything I stood for as well as resignations by teacher representatives, venomous rumours spread by some of my own assistants, and even the publication of a report by the government auditor. The funniest thing was that this report covered the management period of my predecessor, from 2001 to 2011; but the media left out that little detail and I kept being called to account for it, as if I were to blame for all the world’s problems and the inertia of the people who had been there before me.

It might seem surprising that I chose to keep on the two assistant directors appointed by my predecessor. But you have to understand that when I arrived at the Beaux-Arts, the propaganda campaign against me and the Palais de Tokyo [where I had been co-director] was running so hot that some students were convinced that I was bent on shutting down the drawing classes and scrapping painting. So I opted for playing the continuity card, not knowing that I was putting my head into a noose.

During the two years prior to the Ralph Lauren affair, I couldn’t carry out a single project without people throwing a wrench in the works or being told that what I was suggesting was “impossible” and that my ideas didn’t fit with tradition. Cronyism, backdoor deals, departments working in isolation: the Beaux-arts de Paris was in a sorry state. The school doors closed at 8pm (I managed to change this to 10pm, but my ideal would have been a school open 24/7); there was no place to get together and relax (the café will open in October 2015); students’ works were unceremoniously junked the moment they left the ateliers (in 2014 someone was put in charge of managing the production flow); and none of the students could experiment off the beaten track (whereas now all you have to do in order to blow up a sculpture in the courtyard is put in a request to the director of studies).