The West African country of Togo’s first fully state-funded contemporary art institution, which is housed in the Palais de Lomé, a 120-year-old former colonial palace, will open to the public this week. Situated on a sprawling twenty-seven-acre botanical park, the new art center will feature several exhibition spaces. The unveiling of the institution follows a multimillion dollar refurbishment by French architecture firms Segond-Guyon and Archipat, Togolese architecture firm Sara Consult, and landscape designer Frédéric Reynauld, who were commissioned for the project by the Togo government in 2014.
The inauguration ceremony on Friday was attended by high-ranking government officials, including Togolese president Faure Essozimna Gnassingbé, prime minister Komi Sélom Klassou, leaders of the country’s various ethnic groups, and American artist Kehinde Wiley. Built at the turn of the nineteenth century for a German governor and eventually becoming the seat of French authorities during World War I, the palace then served as the seat of the Togolese state until it was abandoned in the early 1990s, following a period of political tumult.
“For the first time in its history, this place where power was exercised will be open to the general public so that they can discover its rich historical, cultural, and environmental heritage,” said Sonia Lawson, the palace’s director. “It was a place of exclusion, a place that was closed and forbidden, now it is open to everyone.”