The next major American city to get its own major recurring arts exhibition is Cleveland, which has just announced the inaugural edition of a new arts triennial dubbed the FRONT International Cleveland Exhibition for Contemporary Art.
FRONT is the brainchild of art collector Fred Bidwell, who stepped in as interim director of the Cleveland Museum of Art when David Franklinresigned amid scandal in 2013. Taking the helm as co-artistic directors will be Jens Hoffmann, who was until recently the deputy director of the Jewish Museum in New York, and artist Michelle Grabner, a co-curator of New York’s heavily-critiqued 2014 Whitney Biennial and organizer of this year’s Portland Biennial in Oregon.
The first edition, titled “An American City,” has a budget of $4-5 million, according to the project announcement. The triennial will investigate “the complex processes by which Cleveland is being constantly undone and rebuilt, said Grabner and Hoffmann in a statement.
“Cleveland, as a Midwestern rust-belt city—I hate to use the term but others will, so I guess I have to—has an interesting story to tell,” Bidwell told the New York Times. “And I think this has the potential eventually to be an important slot on the international cultural calendar.”
He sees a triennial as a way to keep the spotlight on Cleveland after hosting the Republican National Convention. “We cannot live on a diet of political conventions ad infinitum,” said Bidwell to the Cleveland Plain Dealer. “It’s not sustainable. We need events we own, we create and build upon.”
The upcoming edition of FRONT will feature work from more than 50 international artists in both group and solo exhibitions, dotting the city with site-specific artistic interventions and hosting public programs as well as artist and curatorial residencies.
“This citywide initiative will tease out the ways in which contemporary experiences of an urban location are shaped by historical and current events, and uncover how the city’s collective memory and sociopolitical imperatives can define artistic and curatorial production,” Grabner and Hoffmann added.
FRONT has secured the participation of such local institutions as the Cleveland Museum, the Museum of Contemporary Art Cleveland, the Allen Memorial Art Museum at Oberlin College, the Akron Art Museum and theCleveland Institute of Art.
“FRONT International: An American City” will be on view July 7–September 30, 2018.