The Connor Brothers
The Connor Brothers is the pseudonym for British artists James Golding and Mike Snelle. The duo came to prominence in 2012 and for several years maintained their anonymity by using a fictional biography. Their identities were revealed in 2014 in a major feature by Mick Brown in The Telegraph magazine, allowing them to undertake more ambitious projects.
Best known for their Pulp Fiction series the pair are also known for their activist work and their playful hoaxes. In 2014 they created a fictional museum – The Hanbury Collection, which fused truth and fiction in such a way as to render it impossible to work out which exhibits were real and which were not. This obsession with truth and fiction can be seen throughout their work, and is particularly relevant in the current climate of fake news, post-truth and social media obsession.
The Connor Brothers have been amongst the most prominent artistic voices to comment on the refugee crisis. The duo worked for several years in The Jungle refugee camp in Calais building shelters and undertook an international billboard campaign highlighting the plight of displaced people – Refuchic. Closely associated with the Russian activist group Pussy Riot, The Connor Brothers produced their 2015 refugee themed theatrical performance at Banksy’s Dismaland. More recently they have teamed up with Professor Green and the mental health charity CALM to raise funds and awareness about the UK’s epidemic of male depression and suicide.
The Connor Brothers have exhibited internationally from New York, Sydney and Dubai to London, Hong Kong and Berlin. Their work frequently appears at major auction houses where a record price was achieved in 2016. Works can also be found in major public and private collections including The Victoria and Albert Museum, The Penguin Collection and both the Omar Koch and Niarchos Collections.
Many collectors have chosen to buy The Connor Brothers art at various fairs in London as well as sell-out shows at galleries in Los Angeles and Sydney. They have made and sold more than 100 artworks in total – but who are they?
According to their website, twins Franklyn and Brendan Connor were brought up within a secretive Christian cult called ‘The Family.’ Along with other children, including the actors River and Joaquin Phoenix, they were deprived of access to mainstream media from outside the commune.
When the twins ran away at sixteen and settled in Brooklyn, New York, they were initially overwhelmed by the outside world, but felt an insatiable curiosity and remarkable appetite to learn. They would share new discovery with one another via notebooks and sketchpads, making art together in a process they described as ‘trying to make sense of the world.’
In reality however, The Connor Brothers are Mike Snelle and James Golding from London. Artist’s working under pseudonyms is nothing new, particularly in the world of street art – just take Banksy as an example. But why was The Connor Brothers’ art created under the same conditions of anonymity?
In fact, Snelle and Golding really had begun to work together as a form of therapy, inventing The Connor Brothers as a cover to protect themselves from public exposure. They eventually chose to break cover from their detailed disguise once their work saw widespread success. Snelle argues that this is the paradox of art. While artifice is often the best way to depict reality, fiction can also be the best way to challenge conventional concepts of the truth.
“The Connor Brothers work explores the boundary between truth and fiction, and raises questions about how we construct meaning from experience,” says Hubert Weinstein, critic and author of After Post Post Modernism.
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