The École des Beaux-arts de Nantes, at Home and Internationally Interview with Pierre-Jean Galdin
The École des Beaux-arts de Nantes is to reopen in a new building. The physical construction project is also the occasion for an overhaul of its teaching program to make it more international and open, as director Pierre-Jean Galdin explains in this interview. The École des Beaux-arts de Nantes, founded in 1904, was until now located in the historic city center. What led you to locate the new building on the Île de Nantes?
This construction has been in the works since the 1980s, when the directors began what has been an incessant search for a new building. The twentieth century saw the school undergo a process of evolution; the facilities ceased to be adequate long ago. Various plans were abandoned because there was no overall vision, no master narrative. I developed the idea that this new building be pairedwith are con ce p tua lizat io no four approach to higher education in the arts. As I’ve seen in North America, the UK and Switzerland, the various disciplines of art need to be interconnected. When I first became the director here, the new Nantes school of architecture was already in the planning stage. I thought deeply about the urban development strategy involved. Why not group the different art schools together? That would impact the level of professionalism and the common core courses. That also gave us the idea of refocusing our teaching on art school skills, or in other words, recentering the curriculum around our major in art rather than diffusing it to include communications and advertising, digital technologies and design, as so many art schools have done. Contemporary art is not peripheral to those professions; it’s at their heart.
A REGIONAL ORIENTATION
The Nantes and Saint Nazaire art schools are to merge. What consequences will that have?
The idea is for Saint Nazaire to become a major preparatory college for future art school students. Today we’ve let ourselves get trapped by our own selectivity. I’m pretty skeptical about prep boarding schools, because as a result we feel an almost moral obligation to admit all of their graduates. That makes for too much homogeneity in our student population and risks impoverishing it. Nowadays few high school graduates go directly to the major specialized higher education institutions. This merger will allow us to rethink our recruiting policies. Why and how is someone admitted to an art school? How can we find students who’ll surprise us because they don’t fit into any box? We have to come up with new ways for young people to embark on difficult paths and become more of an international magnet, so that our stories and those of people elsewhere can interact. We want these years of education to become more meaningful and not rest content with teaching to exams. In terms of the profile of candidates, we won’t have the same expectations as private prep schools because there’s no profit motive involved. Also, obviously, we need to think on the
Nouvelle École des beaux-arts. Île de Nantes. (Ph. Marc
Dieulangard). The new building on Île de Nantes