A key figure in the Neo-expressionist movement, American artist and filmmaker Julian Schnabel is known for his biographical films, as well as his paintings made from plate fragments, velvet, wood, and wax.Read More
Schnabel lives and works in Montauk and New York City.
Julian Schnabel was born in 1951 in Brooklyn, New York. He moved to Texas with his family in 1965, and earned a BFA from the University of Houston in 1973.
After graduation, Schnabel applied to the independent study program at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York by sending slides of his work sandwiched between slices of bread. He secured admission from 1973—75, and a year after finishing the program, held his first exhibition at the Contemporary Art Museum in Houston. In 1979, his first solo show at Mary Boone Gallery in New York sold out before it opened.
In the 1980s, Schnabel became known for both large oil-on-velvet portraits of fellow artists such as Andy Warhol, as well as his 'Plate Paintings' made from shattered plates. To make the latter works, Schnabel covered crockery and pottery shards—materials typically associated with 'cheap art'—with thick layers of oil paint. Inspired by Antoni Gaudi's mosaic benches in Barcelona, the plate paintings depict vivid, distorted landscapes and figures wearing austere expressions.
Working alongside other Neo-expressionist painters such as Jean-Michel Basquiat and David Salle, Schnabel was a part of a wave of artists who, in reaction to the rigidness of Minimalism and Conceptual art, sought to reintroduce sentiment to art through raw materials, emotive brushstrokes and intense colour. Schnabel's commitment to excess is evident in his larger-than-life subjects and textured surfaces such The Student of Prague (1983)—a triptych plate painting depicting crucifixes and altarpieces devoid of all sacredness, showing rather, a world falling apart between porcelain shards.
Most of Schnabel's films are driven by biographical narratives, beginning with Basquiat (1996), which, based on the eponymous artist's life, is set against the New York art scene of the late 1970s and 80s. Schnabel's next film, Before Night Falls (2000), recounts the life of Cuban poet and novelist Reinaldo Arenas, and was awarded the Grand Prize Jury at the Venice Film Festival; while Miral (2010) is based on Rula Jebreal's recounting of her youth in the West Bank.
Schnabel's 2007 film The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (2007)—an adaptation of a French memoir by Jean-Dominique Bauby—won two Golden Globes, four nominations for the Academy Award, another for the Cesar Award, and the Cannes Film Festival Award—all for best director.
Julian Schnabel's work has been shown in major institutions including the Tate, London (1983); Inverleith House, Edinburgh (2003); Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt (2004); Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, Madrid (2004); Mostra d'Oltramare, Naples (2005); Schloss Derneburg, Germany (2007); Tabacalera Donostia, San Sebastian (2007); Beijing World Art Museum (2007); and the Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto (2010).
Retrospectives of Julian Schnabel's work have been held at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York (1987); Fundació Joan Miró, Barcelona (1995); Schirn Kunsthalle, Frankfurt (2004); Museo Correr, Venice (2011); Brant Foundation Art Study Center, Greenwich, Connecticut (2013); the University of Michigan Museum of Art, Ann Arbor (2015); the Aspen Art Museum, Colorado (2016); The Glass House, New Canaan, Connecticut (2017); and Aros Aarhus Kunstmuseum, Denmark (2018—19).
Institutional and private collectors include the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; MoMA, New York; the Guggenheim Museum, New York; the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; the Broad Art Foundation, Los Angeles; Reina Sofia, Madrid; and the Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris.
The artist's website can be found here.
Elaine YJ Zheng | Ocula | 2021