It is becoming apparent that the coronavirus pandemic’s impact will be felt for a while. Museums in China that shuttered in January remain closed, and major American institutions such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Whitney Museum, both in New York, are preparing for the possibility that they may not be able to admit visitors again until the beginning of July. Biennials and events planned for the summer, such as the Art Basel fair in Switzerland and the Manifesta biennial in Marseille, France, have been postponed.
Now, a major American triennial planned for next year will not happen in 2021 at all—a possible sign that the pandemic’s effects will be farther-reaching than had been initially expected. The Front International: Cleveland Triennial for Contemporary Art in Ohio has revealed plans to delay its 2021 edition, originally expected to run from July 17–October 2 of that year, until 2022. Its new dates are now July 16–October 2, 2022.
Fred Bidwell, executive director and CEO of Front International, said in a statement, “This was not an easy decision, but it is the right one, both for us and our partners. The postponement will allow us to present the best version of Front that we can, something we hope will serve as a beacon of hope at the end of this difficult time.”
Having first launched in 2018, the Front International is one of the largest biennial-style events in the United States, with venues in Cleveland and the nearby cities of Akron and Oberlin. Titled “Oh, Gods of Dust and Rainbows,” the 2022 edition is being curated by Projects Projects founder Prem Krishnamurthy and Art21 executive director and chief curator Tina Kukielski.
The effects of the coronavirus shutdown are being directly felt in the Cleveland art scene. The Cleveland Museum of Art, the city’s biggest museum and an important venue for the triennial, has said it expects to lose $5 million because of its temporary closure, and has instituted layoffs, furloughs, and pay cuts for its staff. The Akron Art Museum, also a Front venue, has also furloughed employees and cut wages.