After just two editions, Cleveland’s Front International will cease operations, with a planned one for 2025 abruptly canceled midway through its planning.
The exhibition, officially named the Front International: Cleveland Triennial for Contemporary Art, was started in 2018. Its two editions set works by internationally acclaimed artists across museums, arts spaces, public sites, and more in Cleveland, as well as the nearby Ohioan cities of Akron and Oberlin.
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Front’s sprawling model put it within a tradition started by Documenta, the famed art show that takes place once every five years in Kassel, Germany, and furthered by noteworthy exhibitions such as the Prospect New Orleans triennial.
To match its ambitions, the triennial had succeeded in bringing on big talent to curate its exhibitions. Artist Michelle Grabner organized the first, in 2018, while Prem Krishnamurthy did the second, in 2022. Asad Raza, an artist who whose work has appeared in the Whitney Biennial and other recurring art exhibitions of note, was announced to lead the 2025 show this past July.
But now, the 2025 show will not happen at all, and neither will any other in the future.
Front quietly announced its shuttering on Friday, in a statement posted to its website that cited an inability to produce future editions with “the same high standards” as prior ones. Funding was repeatedly mentioned throughout the statement, without many specifics about what the issues were.
“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,” the statement reads. “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.”
The statement continues, “In light of this decision, we want to assure our supporters and stakeholders that we intend to return any contributions to our 2025 exhibition and satisfy all our obligations to our staff, vendors, and contractors.”
The exhibition’s statement was signed by Fred Bidwell, who founded Front and served as its CEO, and Helen Forbes Fields, its board chair.