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Nicolas Bourriaud. Photo: Luisalvaz/Wikipedia Commons.

Nicolas Bourriaud Rumored to Be Out at Montpellier Contemporain

Highly regarded curator Nicolas Bourriaud is said to be facing the expiry of his contract as director of the Montpellier Contemporary (MoCo) in southern France. Michaël Delafosse, the recently elected mayor of Montpellier, is reportedly considering two candidates for the post, which comes open again in April, leaving Bourriaud out in the cold. Delafosse is said to have been unhappy with the museum’s 2020 attendance and financial situation which, like those of other institutions worldwide, took a beating owing to the continuing Covid-19 crisis and attendant measures. The museum’s board is expected to meet on March 23 to select the institution’s next director.

Bourriaud, who in 1999 cofounded Paris’s Palais de Tokyo, arguably Europe’s largest noncollecting museum, came to Montpellier in 2015, shortly after being unceremoniously and controversially fired as head of the École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts in Paris. Initially brought in to turn a crumbling hotel into a contemporary art museum, he instead combined that operation with two others, one of them a school, to form MoCo, which cost just $7.3 million in city and state government funds to establish. “It was a way of creating a museum-like structure without having to spend millions building a coherent collection from scratch,” Bourriaud told Frieze last week.

The institution quickly won acclaim for its cutting-edge programming. News of Bourriaud’s possible impending departure—which he seemed to confirm over the weekend with a Facebook post reading, “Now I am out of the institution I created in Montpellier”—was greeted with outrage by students at the institution’s school. Artnews reports that more than 160 students at the École Supérieure des Beaux-Arts signed a petition denouncing “this way of removing an eminence of contemporary culture through an undemocratic process.”

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