Mexx, a botanical sculpture at SFER IK in Tulum, blurs the line between nature and art

Jungle Blossoms

Nestled in the Mayan jungle, 30 miles inland from the beaches of Tulum, Mexico, SFER IK is an interdisciplinary arts center founded by Argentinean-born architect/impresario Roth. Originally opened in 2019, the ten-acre complex is an example of biomorphic architecture. Made entirely from locally sourced materials—cement, vines, and fiberglass—the structure weaves its way through the thick vegetation without a level surface or right angle in sight, offering shelter while simultaneously allowing the jungle’s flora and fauna to invade its internal spaces. This structure, halfway between a building and a garden, offers a unique environment from which to contemplate the relationships between fine art—Ernesto Neto was the first artist to exhibit there—and nature.

Shortly after opening, the COVID pandemic swept the globe and SFER IK was forced to close. This March, the museion, or “temple of the muses,” which has been something of a magnet for strong personalities, reopened with a new director, Marcello Dantas, who replaces Claudia Paetzold. It’s also sporting a new installation: Mexx by Japanese florist and botanical sculptor Azuma Makoto.

Workers install "Mexx," with its array of indigenous flowers, within the biophilic interior of the SFER IK Museion. (Courtesy AZULIK)

(Courtesy AZULIK)

In Japan, Makoto is known as something of a radical whose punk sensibility challenges the soft image of floral arranging. In his celebrated EXOBIOTANICA series, for example, he launched a bouquet of flowers into space. With Mexx, however, Makoto comes back down to earth with a highly contextual approach. The sculpture is made from the same materials as the museum structure with the addition of an enormous array of indigenous flowers that will bloom throughout the interior, putting the Yucatán Peninsula’s rich biodiversity on display.

The installation questions whether an artificial ecosystem can reach symbiosis and harmonize with nature. (Courtesy AZULIK)

“When conceptualizing Mexx, I was inspired by the unique architecture of SFER IK,” Makoto told AN Interior. “It is made by humans but done in unique dialogue with the jungle. The museum itself feels like an organism, and I wanted to make a new biophilic encounter between species within it that will naturally evolve over time.”