As a former artist himself, Neira Sterkel is an ideal collaborator on the project. IK LAB is merely “the tip,” he explained, of a much larger project that includes developing an art school for local youths and an interdisciplinary artist residency. Those initiatives will eventually unfold on a wide swath of land in the jungle, around 20 kilometers from the resort.
The future art center plans to host 14 artists working in various creative mediums, from painting and sculpture to fashion, music, and culinary arts. “Through these artist residencies, we consider ourselves a lab, in the sense that we want to integrate various disciplines of the arts,” Rumney explained. 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.
The organic, rippling form of the main space, Neira Sterkel explained, is meant to evoke a womb-like shape, and to keep people quite literally on their toes. “The uneven floor destabilizes them, it makes them warm and open to the art,” he explained. The no-shoes policy is crucial to the experience as well. “The idea is to make people aware, with all of their senses,” he said. “If you walk barefoot in the sand or grass, you have a special connection with nature—the same is true here.” And while it’s not the easiest place to show art, let alone hang and install it, the architect wagers that this is ultimately a fruitful opportunity for artists.
Russian artist Margo Trushina, who has several sculptures, neon works, and a video (many of which were conceived or created during her trips to Tulum in recent years) in the inaugural show, curated by Rumney Guggenheim, said that as she first looked at photographs and the floorplan, she was bemused. “It does not look like a gallery space, like a white cube,” she said with a laugh. “It looks more like you’re inside of a whale.” She likened the experience to actively collaborating with the space.