Meet Annika Connor, the Art World’s ‘Socialite Realist’

Kristin Sancken


What do you get when you mix a philosopher, artist and entrepreneur with a cocktail dress and derby hat? Annika Connor. A staple on the New York social scene, Connor has spent years cultivating a reputation as a philanthropist, feminist, fashion icon and muse. Most importantly, she is one of the most talented and ambitious young painters in the city.


A studio visit with Connor is an experience in itself. In lieu of a stuffy warehouse studio in Bushwick, the artist chose to work from her bright and cheery Dumbo loft. The walls are covered salon style with her whimsical portraits of ballet dancers, ruminating women, kissing couples, decadent interiors and stylized landscapes. Upon entering, you are greeted with a warm hug, cup of spiced coffee and invited to relax as you take in the sheer complexity of Connor’s diverse body of work.


Like her studio, Connor’s art is more focused on pleasurable discourse in society. A self-proclaimed Contemporary Romantic painter, her work evokes the effeminate sensibilities of a little girl blended with dystopian nostalgia. Her paintings are characterized by technical mastery and a fascination with beauty yet serve as relics to a golden past where fantasy, love and indulgence were more easily obtainable.


Although born in Georgia, Connor is half-Swedish and spent her summers vacationing with her family around Europe. This lifetime of travel and cultural experiences deeply influenced the style and subject matter in her work. Swedish fairy tales, dreamlike narratives, stately palace interiors and romantic daydreams weave their way into Connor’s art and offer a strong sense of viewer escapism.


Stylistically, her watercolors are bright, bold and utilize the artist’s signature technique of applying the paint directly to board. This method allows the paintings to retain strong delineated edges with pliant shadows and colors. Conversely, her oil paintings are more representative of her Nordic upbringing and depict realistic figures, classic compositions, darker colors and Baroque lighting. All are custom framed by Connor in either gold leaf of silver re-accentuating both the aesthetic and symbolic meaning behind the works.


Connor’s latest exhibition Flora/Fauna at the Untitled Space in New York City served as a visual reconnaissance to all of the artist’s technical skills. The show included an array of sizes and mediums and highlighted many never-before-seen nature paintings.  Perhaps some of the most notable pieces were Connor’s bird paintings. These works, inspired partially by the Audubon tradition of artistic ornithology, were set true-to-life in their natural habitat and often portrayed as if caught in motion. Other highlights from the exhibition included “Camus”, an abstracted black and white watercolor of Camus tree branches, “Harbingers”, a gigantic 54” x 72” oil painting featuring a dichotomized flock of colorless birds congregated around a willowy setting, and “White Skies,” a small oil on board work that offered an understated yet significant escape from the hustle of urban life. 



After viewing Connor’s latest artistic developments, I realized that by portraying New York’s vitality she was making a strong statement on our era’s social and political rhetoric. Similar to Social Realism that drew attention and criticism to the everyday conditions of the working class or poor, Connor’s inventive depictions of over-abundance draw attention to the societal structures and conditions of contemporary elite culture and serve as a comparable social critique. Connor is still very much a Contemporary Romantic but, in my opinion, is less “Black Tie Painter” and more of a “Socialite Realist.”



In 2002, Connor received a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago where she studied painting and philosophy. Since then, Connor has worked professionally as a painter in New York, London, and Stockholm while participating in numerous national and international exhibitions. Reviews and publication of her work have appeared in The Huffington Post as well as many other print, Internet and local publications. Her work has been exhibited in many galleries and exhibitions including Watercolors at Phillips de Pury, a solo show in East Hampton with QF Gallery, at The National Arts Club, as well as The Untitled Magazine’s Voyeur Exhibit at Art Basel Miami in 2010.





Author Bio:

Kristin Sancken is a contributing writer at Highbrow Magazine.

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