IK LAB is a new contemporary art gallery that just opened in Tulum, Mexico. It’s the product of a collaboration between Jorge Eduardo Neira Sterkel (who is also a self-taught architect) and gallerist-slash-art advisor Santiago Rumney Guggenheim(great-grandson to Peggy). Rumney told Architectural Digest,
“We want to trigger the creative minds of artists to create for a completely different environment. We are challenging the artists to make work for a space that doesn’t have straight walls or floors—we don’t even have walls really, it’s more like shapes coming out of the floor. And the floor is hardly a floor.”
Set within the grounds of the eco-friendly Azulik resort, nearly every surface is covered with saplings and vines, sourced sustainably from local jungles, or smooth faux-concrete with living trees and plant life sprout from walls, the ceiling, and the floor. You must be barefoot inside, but this unconventional approach to a gallery space is by (over?) design.
Sterkel designed the art space over the past several years, after opening Azulik 13 years ago. It involved no drawings or blueprints, he imagined spaces as he went going to the land where the structure will be.
The architecture of the gallery is challenging (It’s all in the family, if you think of NYC’s Guggenheim) but like Frank Lloyd Wright's difficult-to-install design, it’s what motivated Rumney Guggenheim to pursue the venture. The curved walls reminded him of his great-grandmother’s legendary Art of This Century gallery, the 57th Street space where she gave many Abstract Expressionist painters, including Jackson Pollock, their first shows.
This all happened in the beginning of this year, at the end of Rumney’s annual trip to Tulum a place his father first brought him many years ago. Rumney wrote up a proposal for a gallery program and sent it to Neira Sterkel, saying he could stay in Tulum and continue to develop it. An hour before his flight home to New York, he recalls, he got a text from Sterkel:
“Okay, let’s do it.”
Rumney cancelled his ticket and got to work.
The future art center plans to host 14 artists working in various creative mediums, from painting and sculpture to fashion, music, and culinary arts. Rumney says, the first residents will be housed at Azulik, creating work for IK LAB from a two-level structure that resembles a bird’s nest, connected to the upper end of the gallery’s ramp by a tree-flanked footbridge.
“Through these artist residencies, we consider ourselves a lab, in the sense that we want to integrate various disciplines of the arts.“
Sterkel says the design is to keep viewers literally on their toes,
“The uneven floor destabilizes them, it makes them warm and open to the art. The idea is to make people aware, with all of their senses. If you walk barefoot in the sand or grass, you have a special connection with nature—the same is true here.”
Brazilian artist Artur Lescher, who had never been to Tulum before, was similarly exhilarated by the challenge of the space. His sleek, minimalist forms—including a metallic pillar suspended from the ceiling—are a stark contrast to the gallery’s flowing vines and faux-concrete.
“It’s like a game. It’s like putting an artwork inside of an artwork.”
His work resonates with the show’s most impressive piece: Tatiana Trouvé’s 250 Points Towards Infinity (2015), which is comprised of 250 small pendulums suspended from the ceiling of the gallery’s domed space.
But running a gallery in Tulum isn’t easy, Rumney admits. But he’s excited by the challenges,
“You can do anything in this space. The ceiling height, the trees growing through it, the shapes, these are all things we can use; we can combine this piece of art with other pieces of art.”
Is Guggenheim interested in building upon the family legacy?
“They set the bar very high and I can’t compare what I’m doing to what they’ve achieved. But, I do want to do things differently, and maybe unconsciously that’s what has led me to do this. Really, I’m just following my instincts.”
ALIGNMENTS; Artur Lescherm, Mago Trushina, Tatiana Trouvé runs through September 19, 2018.