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A Collector’s Guide to the Connor Brothers

What to know about the hyped East London duo who fooled the art world with their spectacular story.

Works featured on offer in West Chelsea Contemporary’s new exhibition: PROVOCATEURS. MAR 13 – MAY 9


Con Men or Creative Geniuses? The men behind the Connor Brothers, Mike Snelle, left, and James Golding.

In 2013 a mysterious Duo emerged at the center of the Contemporary art world almost out of nowhere. They called themselves “The Connor Brothers”, and though they were never seen in person, their intriguing backstory was widely known. It had all the underpinnings of a Hollywood film in the making; twin brothers escaping from a luddite American cult, seeking refuge in Brooklyn, discovering art-making as a means of connecting with the world they had been sheltered from, and creating together in order to heal. What no one knew at the time was that the story was entirely a fictional one, and that the true Connor Brothers were Mike Snelle and James Golding, former art dealers from East London who had invented the story in a moment of fun.

Producing highly-collectable paintings and prints featuring cheeky quotes and expertly rendered Pulp-fiction inspired figures, The Connor Brothers quickly earned a place in worldwide collections, including ours at West Chelsea Contemporary.

Read on below to discover five things every collector should know about The Connor Brothers.

  1. The Connor Brothers aren’t actually brothers.

The Connor Brothers were introduced to the art world as Franklyn and Brendan Connor. Their story went: Two brothers, brought up in the American Cult The Family escaped into the “real world” after running away at the age of sixteen. Arriving in Brooklyn, New York with absolutely no grasp of reality as we know it, the brothers set to interpreting their new world through art and philosophy. They would study subjects separately, discuss together, and create stunning work based upon their findings.

The story proved to be a buzz-worthy one: From the get-go The Connor Brothers had sold out shows, and the art market was as obsessed with their identity as it was with the work they created. However, things took a turn in 2014 when their work was scheduled to be shown at both Bonham’s and Christie’s. The real men behind the alleged duo realized that looking forward, they were to become more encumbered professionally by their pseudonyms than propelled. They outed themselves to the public through a much-gossiped over interview in the Telegraph.

The Connor Brothers: Normal is the Cruelest of All Insults

2. The Duo came clean about their real identities in 2014, inciting a small uproar in the Art World, but ultimately leading to even greater success.

 The duo then chose to reveal themselves as two British art dealers Mike and James, creating paintings in an east-London studio and using their collaboration as “ a form of therapy, inventing the identity of the Connor Brothers as a cloak to cover the ‘shame’ that both felt about their lives, and to protect themselves from the discomfort of public exposure.” (Mick Brown Oct 2014 in the Telegraph)

The Connor Brothers: Tell Him I Was Too Fucking Busy

“We have a choice. If I’m depressed and look at my life, I think it’s all been shit. But someone else could have the same experiences and say,

“I’ve had a great, adventurous life.”

The idea that you’re free to choose the meaning, if you can work out how to do it, seems really profound to me. “

– Mike Snelle (1/2 of The Connor Brothers)

3. Each Connor Brothers piece is cheeky and dark, using Pulp-Fiction inspired visuals and fresh phrases to force viewers to look inward at themselves.

The Connor Brothers are known for their paintings and prints featuring vintage pin-up beauties and Old Hollywood starlets in seductive poses, paired with captions that exude a dry sense of humor.

The Connor Brothers:
I Don’t Want to Go to Heaven, None of My Friends are There

4. Since revealing their true identities, The Connor Brothers have used their art and success to support philanthropic initiatives.

Snell and Golding visited the refugee camp named The Jungle in Calais and witnessed first-hand the appalling conditions the people were living in. In collaboration with Hang-Up Gallery, they sold an edition of prints in order to raise money to provide aid for the people in The Jungle. They have also colaborated with the notorious Russian group Pussy Riot to bring attention to the refugee crisis.

Recently, the duo has also supported the charity CALM with their work, which leads a movement against suicide, the single biggest killer of men under the age of 45 in the UK. In 2020 they created 12 prints specifically for the Prints & Multiples sale. The prints represent the 12 men who take their own lives in the UK every day, and all proceeds from the sale were donated to CALM.

The Connor Brothers:
I Sometimes Feel That God, In Creating Men, Somewhat Overestimated His Ability

5. The Connor Brothers have been auctioned alongside Banksy and Damien Hirst at Christie’s and Bonham’s.

The Connor Brothers have been auctioned alongside Banksy and Damien Hirst at Christie’s and Bonham’s. Their work has been sold at numerous art fairs in London, and there have been sell-out shows at galleries in London, Los Angeles and Sydney. In 2015 they curated Pussy Riot’s performance at Banksy’s Dismaland exhibition.

Beginning March 13th of 2021 West Chelsea Contemporary is proud to present works by The Connor Brothers on display in PROVOCATEURS.

Reach out today to inquire or acquire.


FEATURED IN WCC’S SHOW – PROVOCATEURS:

THE CONNOR BROTHERS | DALI | FAIREY | GARNER | HAMBLETON HIRST | HOLZER | HOOPER | MALZTMAN| MAZZUCCO | PETERSON | PHOEBENEWYORK | RETNA | RISK | YOUNG | RUSCHA | SHRIGLEY | CIANCIULLI | TEAGUE | THOMAS | TRUJILLO | WARHOL | WATSON | WESSELMANN| YUSKAVAGE & more.

Follow @wcc.art to learn more.

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