Paris’s École des Beaux-Arts Under Fire for Destroying Book with Sexual Harassment Allegations

The École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts in Paris is under fire after reports that it confiscated and destroyed copies of a recently published book that contained sexual harassment allegations about recent Beaux-Arts leadership. 

The book, titled Les Suffragettes de l’art, charts the history of women at the famed Parisian art school. More than half of the books first printing of 2,000 volumes were pulped, according to the French art publicationLe Quotidien de l’ArtA second edition was published without the last two sections of the book, “#MeToo years” and “A charter for gender equality.”

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One of the removed sections contained accusations of sexism aimed at former Beaux-Arts director Jean-Marc Bustamante, whose tenure at school was reportedly described as “not easy for the future academician.” The text then pointed to an interview that was subsequently published in the catalogue for the 2005 exhibition “Dionysiac” at the Centre Pompidou. In that interview, Bustamante said, “Man needs to conquer territories, a woman finds her territory and she stays there; while women are looking for a man, a man wants all women.”

According to the Art Newspaper, Bustamante’s directorship ended in 2018 after allegations of sexual harassment were made by students against some of the teachers at the school.

In Le Quotidien de l’Art, Bustamante fired back with examples of the women to promoted to high positions at the school. He also said that he, with assistance from the French Ministry of Culture, implemented a series of measures “against sexual violence and for equality.” 

Bustamante said the 2005 comments were taken out of context, that their publication amounted to a “smear campaign” against him, and that the books original version had several inaccuracies. “A month ago, I was informed that the school had decided to reissue the work without the erroneous passages. I obviously never asked for it to be pulped,” Bustamante said.

Alexia Fabre, the current director of Beaux-Arts, told Le Monde that “when the book came out, a lot of criticism emerged, particularly regarding two paragraphs in the last chapter. We therefore made the decision quickly, probably too quickly, to withdraw this chapter because we had neither the time nor the possibility to fairly report this moment in history.”

Neither Fabre nor the school immediately returned a request for comment from ARTnews.

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