Galerie Peter Herrmann is relocating from Berlin to Lomé – an unusual move that almost automatically raises the same question among all interlocutors: why Togo? It’s such a poor country, after all. Who’s going to buy art?
In Berlin, contemporary work by artists from Africa could not succeed commercially to the extent we desired. It was sumptuously cross-financed out of the proceeds from the sale of old, classical art from Africa, which also can be sold around the world, but not here. Like other Berlin galleries, we could not successfully participate in appropriate trade shows outside the city. Art Cologne, Art Karlsruhe, Johannesburg Art Fair: despite our roster of top-class artists, we always operated at a loss. Berlin itself has virtually no market. Not even books sell here. It’s difficult for outsiders to understand, but Berlin is the poorest of Germany’s major cities and, with 600 galleries, completely oversaturated.
In West Africa, by contrast, a new appreciation for the art historical significance of classical art has developed in the past years, along with a vibrant young art scene and an affluent middle class enthusiastic about art. For decades, Lomé has been the best known trading center for West African classical art; what’s more, it’s geographically well-situated between Lagos and Accra, the new centers of contemporary art. We’re involved in projects in Brazzaville, Douala and Dakar to which the move will bring us closer.
Prior to working as a gallerist, Peter Herrmann spent nearly 10 years in various West African countries, and for almost 25 years, his primary focus as an art dealer has been West and Central Africa. Many artists, art historians and ethnologists in Lagos, Cotonou, Lomé and Accra are thus looking forward to the arrival of his gallery. We’re coming with German cultural policy support that reaches all the way to Parliament, we know many fellow dealers in West Africa, and we will work with international foundations. We also have plans to build an ecologically innovative cultural center.
Our colleague Audrey Peraldi will first go to Brazzaville for two months to step up the Les Ateliers Sahm project together with artist Bill Kouélany. Peter Herrmann, for his part, will travel to Lomé to find suitable premises. We hope to re-open the gallery in the new Lomé space at the end of year.