"Some people have an aura around them, a specific colour that expresses who they are"
London looks incredibly glum on this March day. Drizzle spits in my face as I walk towards the Maddox Gallery in Mayfair, where I am meeting one of the art scene’s hottest rising stars: Coco Dávez (real name, Valeria Palmeiro). Prior to our meeting, I’m briefed by my colleague that she’s recently been listed on Forbes' distinguished list of 30 under 30 European creatives. No pressure then.
The Maddox Gallery quite literally springs into full view as its lavish bouquet of flowers crawl up the Edwardian townhouse. Recognised as one of central London’s most Instagram-worthy spots, the bloom-clad contemporary space is one of five sites in London along with overseas outposts in Gstaad and Los Angeles. Jay Rutland is creative director of Maddox Gallery, which counts Lauren Baker, Jean Michel Basquiat and Jeff Koons amongst its wall candy.
Awaiting Coco, I sit cocooned in a deep leather chair and gaze at David Yarrow’s enormous monochrome photograph of an African elephant. Behind me is a 1985 silkscreen print by Andy Warhol – ‘Be A Somebody With A Body’ it proclaims. In walks Coco; she looks like the Spanish flag, all reds and yellows; vermilion lipstick, matching coat, yellow tote bag and big chestnut eyes. Accompanying her is a charming morena, Chloe, who is fluent in Spanish and is Maddox’s director of marketing. We’re here to talk about Coco’s latest exhibition Faceless, a series of graphic paintings dedicated to her idols.
Joining us in the gallery is Elvis, David Lynch and Karl Lagerfeld, in the form of her pop art-style paintings. Characterised by an interplay of bold hues and simple lines, her acrylic on canvas Faceless collection instantly demands attention. Despite their large dimensions, there is a delicacy to the works, achieved by a masterful combination of playful colours.
Luckily all of Dávez's subjects had great hair because as the name suggests, her series of paintings are entirely faceless. My rookie knowledge was exposed when I encountered a red-haired specimen and so assumed it was Dame Vivienne Westwood – I should have known it was actually Yayoi Kusama. “How on earth did you do Frida Kahlo without the eyebrows?” I ask. “Sometimes, you have to look beyond the obvious."
Starting her creative work in Spain, she was discovered by the art director of the national Spanish newspaper El Mundo, Rodrigo Sánchez, who gave Dávez her first break. She has since amassed 137K followers on Instagram and worked with Prada, Chanel and Puma amongst other big names. For Chanel (fitting for an artist who goes by the moniker of Coco), she created chic animations to mark the 2017 launch of its Gabrielle fragrance, which was then published in Vogue Spain.
We talk about the vivid use of colour in her works. “Faceless brings together the joy of colours and my comic side, it's my creative engine. Some people have an aura around them, a specific colour that expresses who they are. When I painted my sister, she was horrified that I painted her in neutral beige tones. 'Am I that boring?' was her reaction.”
Naturally, the topic of fashion comes up. “I would love to start my own label one day. As an artist, I am always looking to channel my creative energy in various ways. I hated to be told what to do when I was at art school, and there was a period when I couldn't find any authentic inspiration." On the way she dresses: "I like to experiment with clothes. I once got a haircut wanting to look like a Japanese girl. I ended up looking like the French character Amélie instead."
I ask why she didn't create faceless works of divisive political figures? After all, Kim Jong Un's hairstyle would have lent itself marvellously to a canvas or even better, Trump's. Maybe even get the two of them together on the canvas. "I feel that by doing that, I would be creating art for the sake of making a statement, for the sake of being controversial." She explains that the purpose of the series was a joyous one, not a political one: "These are figures who I admire, and whom I pay tribute to. If I had to meet any artist for dinner it would probably be Picasso. I always do things out of authenticity."
The hour goes by astonishingly quickly and I'm left with more questions than I came in with. First, it's off to a radio interview and then later in the evening, the gallery will be holding an Influential Women’s Dinner, at which she is one of the star artists on show. Models, artists, socialites and powerful businesswomen are all expected to attend.
For now, at least, the future looks very colourful indeed for this Madrilenian artist.
A collection of works will be on display at Maddox Gallery Westbourne Grove from 10th to 31st May 2019.
112 Westbourne Grove, London, W2 5RU