On any day, at any given time, nearly 200 "people" can be found lounging around GreenStreet Café in Coconut Grove. Some of them pose near the bar. Some hang from chandeliers. And others stand on the ceiling in the main dining area. Luckily for the Grove and, well, society, the mob is not a group of drunken University of Miami undergrads flashing their fake IDs for beers. The "people" are art -- a display of unique miniature figures made of white plaster. And they play a key role in the eatery's décor.
Three years ago, GreenStreet owner Sylvano Bignon waltzed into a Key Biscayne art studio belonging to Parisian Benedicte Blanc-Fontenille. The artist uses the small sculptures she calls "personages" in much of her work. All of it is centered on movement and the expression of the active human body. The figures are even used to create silhouettes in her paintings. The price for one: $250. Bignon says he quickly became enamored with Fontenille's work and commissioned a couple hundred of the personages. The artist recalls the day the two crossed paths. "He just walked up to me and asked, 'Can you do more?'" she says in a strong French accent.
Asked what made him think to use the bodies as restaurant décor, Bignon says, "I don't think about what's going to work; I just think about what I like."
It took several months for Fontenille to create the little white-person army. She then worked with Bignon's wife, Maida, to strategically place them in the dining area. Each personage has a signature stance and position. The artist says their placement is part of the art. And they are all androgynous. "We don't know if it is a man or a woman," the artist says. "The most important part is the movement."
Bignon says the figures have become part of GreenStreet's ambiance, an
environment he has created by blending a hodgepodge of concepts. The personages share space with dusty books, beat-up red-velvet couches, and
mismatched chairs. But the chaotic design works. The eatery exudes
familiarity and comfort.
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GreenStreet's owner says several
patrons have asked if the contorting white bodies are a re-creation of a Cirque du Soleil scene. He says others have expressed that they get spooked by the eerie shadows the figures cast.
the people's imagination," says Bignon, who also has a few personages in
they're a good conversation starter."
Short Order couldn't agree more. The mystery behind the elusive ornamental bodies is what led to this blog post.
Today there are far fewer than 200 figures standing/hanging around GreenStreet because many are being repaired.
creative mind is also behind the 6,000-piece collage that spans the
walls inside Bignon's recently opened eatery, Lulu. The Parisian
artist says that in recent years, she has produced slews of personages for art-loving
individuals but has not made them for any other
3468 Main Hwy., Coconut Grove