Vida Verde is a modern Mexican restaurant in Midtown Manhattan. On the walls of the restaurant are hand-painted murals by Victor “Marka27” Quiñonez. Quiñonez was born in Mexico, raised in the U.S., and went to art school in Boston. In addition to having exhibited in galleries, he has also collaborated with many major brands, including Levis, Pioneer, Scion, Converse, Heineken, VH1, Disney, New Balance, and Kidrobot. Contributor Amy Sherman spoke with him as part of her continuing series on partnerships within the restaurant industry to learn more about this successful artist and his recent restaurant collaboration with Vida Verde.
How did you first connect with the team behind Vida Verde?
I knew the chef Hugo Orozco, and my studio is close to his first restaurant, La Slowteria. Orozco knew my work and, like me, he’s from Mexico, He wanted to bring authenticity to his restaurant and my understanding of Mexican culture fit. He wanted something neo-indigenous — Mexican culture but influenced by the U.S.
Who were the stakeholders in the project?
The chef as was the biggest stakeholder when it came to creative direction. The management wanted the chef to be happy but also to have it work with the interior designer and architects. The team was, maybe, three people at the most. We wanted murals that were authentic but modern — not cliché or predictable.
How did you choose the themes for the murals?
When I chose Frida Kahlo as a subject, it wasn’t a typical portrait but a mix of Hugo’s vision of nature and organic ingredients and agave and different natives using peyote for medicinal purposes and food. His cooking led to a recipe for not just the food but the murals themselves.
I also created anamorphic murals upstairs. In anamorphic designs, the work is broken up into different spaces so it can be experienced at different angles and head on. The “Manos de Dios” was a tribute to the people who work in agriculture because we should think more about the people who grow and pick and pack our food on the trucks.
How does your background enable you to work well with restaurant clients?
I’ve been designing for fashion all my life and have worked with restaurants and boutiques. My background makes it easy for me to separate my personal stuff from what the client needs. In a restaurant project, you have to be open to the needs.
What does it take to make a project such as this successful?
For a restaurant to work with an artist, the first step is to have a clear vision of what they want: who they want at the table, the kind of food they want to serve. That will help them choose the right person for the job. An artist has to be a great storyteller. It’s not so different with a restaurant project. The artist has to think about the focus of the restaurant.
What are the potential pitfalls to avoid?
The most challenging moments with a client is when they are not sure what they want. I do my best to help them with their vision, but I have a contract that minimizes the back and forth. It allows clients to make changes and revisions within reason. This keeps everyone happy and focused.