Fine Art Schools
A Network of 56 advanced French Art Schools
Introduction from “the “Guide to French Art Schools” published by ANDEA (National Association of Art School Directors) and AFAA (French Association for Artistic Action). You may consult this catalogue in all the CampusFrance’s overseas offices throughout the world, at AFAA headquarters in Paris or you may order it at the Documentation française
"What is a Fine Arts School"? We are asked this question nearly every day by parents or high-school students tempted by the visual arts and their corresponding professions. The answer is simple: these are schools of "higher" (or “superior” as is said in Swiss-French) education. They offer training at the university level, with nationally recognized degrees in everything that deals with visual creation. However, while most well-known artists have attended an art school, the schools themselves do not only seek future artists.
For the vast majority of students, the attraction to fine arts schools is to learn modern and classical techniques for producing still or moving images. Students learn to create visually coherent projects that relate to the now-extreme variety of professions in the arts, both traditional and modern. They learn what artists from every period have invented. They meet contemporary artists who are important to current visual art and communications. A fine arts academy is a paradoxical place: it prepares students for a multitude of professions, while offering the individual student the personal freedom of invention. These students also encounter, on a daily basis, working artists and major comtemporary artworks.
A second frequently asked question is "How do French art schools work?" Colleagues from other countries often have a hard time understanding French schools. For historical reasons there tend to be more art schools in neighboring countries. Since the Enlightenment and the 19th century, a freer, or more modern form of cultural expression has occurred in French provinces, often at municipal-based or local art schools—in contrast to the formal "academies" founded by various monarchies, and based on the master class, which is often the case in other countries. Another distinctive trait about French schools is that after the 1968 “revolution", traditional academic structures were abandoned to the benefit of free, individualized teaching. This new method was derived from numerous independent schools established in Paris during the first phase of modern art, which gave birth to such artists as Fernand Léger, André Lhote and Henri Matisse.
The 1970s in France was a unique period of reformation. Beginning in the '70s, 58 fine-arts schools across the country diversified their programs by reexamining teaching strategies. They shared a generalist spirit of creativity based on an overall notion of art that greatly differed from the master-student relationship. Students began to work with increasing numbers of teachers, rather than one master, as in most European countries. As a result, French schools established an interconnection between the various media, including architecture. This "inter-media" based curriculum is unique on the international stage. It brings French schools closer to the new "image civilization" that now dominates visual and artistic professions.
The recent development of a single, advanced-level curriculum standard, to be instituted in Europe by 2006, calls for greater reflection about accreditation in the system as a whole, including the training and status of teachers and an institution’s artistic goals.
Simultaneously an impressive number of important artists today have emerged from "French mold," just as they did ten years ago from British schools, with training that either led to a degree or to post-graduate programs.
A number of these young artists, such as Anri Sala, Philippe Parreno, Pierre Huyghe, Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster and Bojan Sarcevic, have garnered international reputations. Moreover, not only are they considered today to be the incarnation of a "very French" artistic and visual intelligence, but their work is also a direct product of French training. A 70-year-old foreign artist, in his first experience teaching in France, said to me, "I have never seen such free, independent and responsible people."
Hambourg, mai 2004