IK LAB Fine Art Gallery in Tulum, Mexico by Jorge Eduardo Neira Sterkel.
When it comes to museums and galleries that have completely shunned the concept of the white cube exhibition space, the world has a pretty impressive catalogue. Rather than unadorned, flat white walls that allow art enthusiasts to focus solely on the work presented to them, imaginative exhibition concepts champion the escapism and raw creativity in art. They throw light on the history of a locale and the power of architecture. Think the Peter Zumthor-designed Zinc Mine Museum in southern Norway, the Museum of Memory in Granada by Alberto Campo Baeza, or Museo Jumex by David Chipperfield. And before these, there was Centre Georges Pompidou, and the spiralled walls of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York by Frank Lloyd Wright.
At a glance, IK Lab Fine Art Gallery looks a bit like the inside of a tree or a magical dwelling from Peter Jackson’s Rivendell – maybe not the most ideal spot to string up a set of new oil paintings. It is, however, a new high-brow exhibition space built into the leafy grounds of a luxury eco-lodge in Tulum. The gallery is the brainchild of the lodge’s founder, artist and designer Jorge Eduardo Neira Sterkel, along with Guggenheim descendant, gallerist Santiago Rumney Guggenheim (Peggy’s great-grandson).
Following his hereditary penchant for unusual, challenging architecture as galleries (Peggy’s Art for This Century Gallery in Manhattan, or Frank Gehry’s Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, for example) Rumney saw the potential to show art in a more intriguing, interesting light from within Eduardo’s breathtaking treehouse.
The otherworldly structure has been designed to complement its Caribbean coastal setting and the traditional culture of Mexico‘s Yucatán Peninsula. Balanced on stilts so as not to disturb the wildlife below, the walls, domes, walkways, and balconies of the gallery are woven with saplings and vines which have been sourced sustainably from local jungles. Apparently, no new trees were cut down to create it. Light floods in through wide, circular windows and a slatted canopy-slash-ceiling. The floor undulates almost organically – switching between locally sourced timber and smooth faux-concrete that looks like the interior of a submerged cave.
IK Lab’s inaugural exhibition, naturally enough, explores the human journey through both physical and metaphysical realms. Three artists are featured: towering sculptures by Brazilian artist Artur Lescher hang from the gallery’s cavernous ceiling, minimalist neon works by Russian artist Margo Trushina are peppered throughout, and 250 pendulums by Paris-based Tatiana Trouve descend from the height of a 12-metre high dome.