After three years as the director of Paris’s École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts (ENSBA), Nicolas Bourriaud has struggled to gain the unanimous support of the establishment’s academic community.
In May 2014, 14 teachers — out of a total of 19 — and a group of students from the administrative board wrote a letter to Aurélie Filippetti, France’s Minister for Culture and Communication. The aim of the document was to oppose the proposed dismissal of three senior members of staff at ENSBA; a decision announced by Nicolas Bourriaud at the board meeting on 20 May. The three members concerned are Frédéric Jousset, president of the administrative board; Gaïta Leboissetier, director of studies; and Thierry Jopeck, director general.
This latest imbroglio comes as an additional hindrance during an already-tense period for the school, as tensions rise between students and professors concerning decisions made by Bourriaud. Most recently, protests were made at the — apparently unilateral — decision for ENSBA to take part in Paris’s CHOICES weekend; a decision viewed by the students as a marketing opportunity and one which was “hidden” from students by the school’s administration. This disagreement prompted several peaceful student demonstrations, as well as banners at the school’s entrance.
Previously, in October 2013, students protested against a private event for Ralph Lauren held in ENSBA, which prevented access to fourteen studios over the course of several days, just prior to exams.
In spite of these events, Nicolas Bourriaud has gained the support of numerous figures on the art market. A petition in his favour has been signed by more than 400 people, including Daniel Buren, Ami Barak and Hou Hanru.
With such divided opinions, it will be up to France’s Minister for Culture and Communication to take the final decision on the matter.