Representatives for the Front International: Cleveland Triennial for Contemporary Art are shutting down operations mid-way through planning for its third edition, which was scheduled to open in 2025.
Front International’s two editions (in 2018 and 2022) brought internationally acclaimed artists to Northeast Ohioan institutions in an effort to transform Cleveland into a global art hub, drawing comparisons to Kassel, Germany’s celebrated Documenta exhibitions, as well as the success of regional art events in the US like the Prospect New Orleans triennial.
Over the last six years, Front enlisted heavy-hitting curators to curate its shows; Michelle Grabner and Prem Krishnamurthy organised the first two undertakings, and artist Asad Raza had been selected to curate the 2025 triennial. The initiative brought projects and commissions by nationally and internationally renowned artists to the city, from Katrín Sigurdardóttir and Barbara Bloom to John Akomfrah and Sonia Gomes. Front’s organisers also sought to create partnerships with local institutions and non-profits, which included launching a fellowship to support marginalised artists in northern Ohio during its 2022 edition.
Front’s team will be disbanding efforts to produce any future shows, including the planned 2025 edition, citing funding problems and a lack of confidence that “the same high standards” could be met, according to an announcement.
“The board of Front made this decision 18 months before the planned opening of 2025, at a time when it would soon be necessary to enter into agreements with artists and partners for the 2025 exhibition,” explains the announcement, which was signed by Front’s executive director Fred Bidwell, board chair Helen Forbes Fields and the board of directors. “Our priority is to ensure that we do not risk the investment our funders and supporters have made or disappoint artists and audiences with an exhibition that is less than their expectations.”
In an interview with Cleveland’s Scene, Bidwell said the organisation’s fundraising efforts yielded “significantly lower” results than their typical $5.5m benchmark, although he remained optimistic about the possibility of reviving Front in some other guise.
“We can do this, and we need to continue to do this,” he told Scene, “but in other forms, other formats, other venues.”
Front’s two editions brought significant attention to the art scenes in Cleveland and neighbouring Oberlin and Akron. Its inaugural edition in 2018 drew around 90,000 visitors, while another 75,000 attended the 2022 edition. One permanent Front commission, Tony Tasset’s Judy’s Hand Pavilion, remains on view; another long-term public installation commissioned as part of Front, a towering mural by Julie Mehretu, was abandoned last year.