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.


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

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