Julian Schnabel (born October 26, 1951) is an American painter and filmmaker. In the 1980s, Schnabel received international media attention for his "plate paintings"—large-scale paintings set on broken ceramic plates.
Schnabel directed Before Night Falls, which became Javier Bardem's breakthrough Academy Award-nominated role, and The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, which was nominated for four Academy Awards.
He has won the award for best director at the 2007 Cannes Film Festival, a Golden Globe, as well as BAFTA, a César Award, two nominations for the Golden Lion and an Academy Award nomination.
Early life and education
Born in Brooklyn, New York to Esta (née Greenberg) and Jack Schnabel, he moved with his family to Brownsville, Texas in 1965. It was in Brownsville that he spent most of his formative years and where he took up surfing and resolved to be an artist.
He received his B.F.A. at the University of Houston. After graduating, he sent an application to the Independent Study Program (ISP) at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York. His application included slides of his work sandwiched between two pieces of bread. He was admitted into the program and studied there from 1973-1975.
It was with his first solo show, at the Mary Boone Gallery in 1979, that Schnabel had his breakthrough; all his works were sold in advance. He participated at the Venice Biennale in 1980 with Anselm Kiefer and George Baselitz. By the time he exhibited his work in a show jointly organized by Boone and Leo Castelli in 1981, he had become firmly established and was the youngest artist in the legendary exhibition 'A New Spirit in Painting' in the Royal Academy of Arts. His now famous "plate paintings" — large-scale paintings set on broken ceramic plates—received a boisterous and critical reception from the art world. His wild and expressive works were classed as neo-expressionism by art critics. In the years to follow Schnabel's success on the art market would above all be criticised.
Schnabel's style is characterised by very large scale paintings. He uses diverse materials such as plaster, wax, photographs, antlers, velvet and ceramics. His paintings make use of canvas, wood, muslin and even surfboards. His paintings often combine abstract and figurative elements. Due to the size, weight and depth of his works, they are often given sculptural properties.
In 2002, Schnabel painted the cover artwork for the Red Hot Chili Peppers' eighth studio album, By The Way. The woman featured on the cover of By the Way is Julian's daughter, Stella Schnabel, who was band member John Frusciante's then-girlfriend. Regarding the artwork, Frusciante noted: "My girlfriend's father offered to do the album art, so we sent him rough mixes of eight songs, and he just got the vibe of the album from that. He said that he wouldn't be offended if we didn't like it, but we loved what he did. He's also given us great covers for all the singles. He's a true artist."
Schnabel insists he is a painter first and foremost, though he is better known for his films.
In 2011 Museo Correr exhibited Julian Schnabel: Permanently Becoming and the Architecture of Seeing, a selected survey show of Schnabel's career curated by Norman Rosenthal.
Art critic Robert Hughes was one of the most outspoken critics of his work; he once stated that "Schnabel's work is to painting what Stallone's is to acting: a lurching display of oily pectorals." (Time Magazine, August 7, 2012).
His works are in the collections of various museums throughout the world, among them the Metropolitan Museum of Art; Museum of Modern Art in New York; the Whitney Museum of American Art; the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA), Los Angeles; Los Angeles County Museum of Art; Reina Sofia in Madrid; Tate Modern in London and the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris.
Schnabel had an exhibition at the Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto, which ran from September 1, 2010 to January 2, 2011 and occupied the entirety of the gallery's fifth floor. It examined "the rich interplay between Schnabel's paintings and films".
Schnabel began his film career in the 1990s with the film Basquiat, a biopic on the painter Jean-Michel Basquiat (1996), followed by Before Night Falls (2000), an adaptation of Reinaldo Arenas' autobiographical novel, which he also produced, which won the Grand Jury Prize at the Venice Film Festival. He directed The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (2007), an adaptation (with a screenplay by Ronald Harwood) of a French memoir by Jean-Dominique Bauby. The Diving Bell and the Butterfly earned him the award for best director at the 2007 Cannes Film Festival, the Golden Globe for best director, the Independent Spirit Award for best director, and a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Director. Schnabel, who designed Lou Reed's critically acclaimed 'Berlin' Tour in 2007, also released 'Berlin the Movie'.
Despite the fact that producing The Diving Bell and the Butterfly might seem like a commission to do someone else's work, Schnabel took on the film. According to Schnabel,
In May 2017, it was reported that Schnabel would return to directing movies. Schnabel announced that he will direct a film about painter, Vincent Van Gogh during time in Arles and Auvers-sur-Oise, France. The film is called At Eternity’s Gate and script was written by Schnabel and famed French screenwriter, Jean-Claude Carrière. Schnabel said, “This is a film about painting and a painter, and their relationship to infinity. It is told by a painter. It contains what I felt were essential moments in his life, this is not the official history — it’s my version. One that I hope could make you closer to him.” Schnabel said he was struck by the painter’s “commitment to something that did not have an audience, or an audience that he was probably never going to meet. When Van Gogh looked at the beauty of nature through painting, it brought him further away from everybody and made it impossible for him to have a real life. The film will shed light on that.” The film will adopt a first-person point of view, as the isolated Van Gogh wanders the countryside, wishing a few people would commune with him like a normal person. Schnabel wants the movie to “exist outside of time,” he said. “There are moments in the script and film where he understands that nobody is going to understand him. He doesn’t care if people understand him. He just wants to be able to paint. For the longest time he was trying to help people and show people something they couldn’t see. That’s a tall order. He also realized he was going to leave something here.” Schnabel also stated that he didn’t like any of the 36 films about Van Gogh’s life. “I don’t think they get it,” he said. “Maybe I have to be a painter to be able to do this film, that’s probably why I’m doing it. I see it the way I make a painting or a work of art.” The filmmaker wants At Eternity’s Gate to make the moviegoer “feel not like you are watching Vincent Van Gogh, but you are living his life,” he said. “We’re not trying to address his whole life story. It’s really about understanding what painting is, what the different language is that is not the same. It’s a painted world, a different way of communicating.” Willem Dafoe will play Van Gogh. In September 2017, it's been reported that Oscar Isaac and Emmanuelle Seigner, who co-starred in Schnabel's The Diving Bell and the Butterfly will be part of the cast.
Writing and recording
Schnabel published his autobiography, CVJ: Nicknames of Maitre D's & Other Excerpts From Life (Random House, New York), in 1987 and released the album Every Silver Lining Has a Cloud on Island Records (Catalog #314-524 111-2) in 1995.
Recorded in Brooklyn, New York, in 1993, the album features guest musicians including Bill Laswell, Bernie Worrell, Buckethead, and Nicky Skopelitis.
Schnabel lives in New York, maintaining studios in New York City and in Montauk on the far eastern end of Long Island. He has three children by his first wife, clothing designer Jacqueline Beaurang: two daughters, Lola, a painter and film-maker, Stella, a poet and actress, and a son, Vito, an art dealer.
He has twin sons, Cy and Olmo, by his second wife, Spanish Basque actress Olatz López Garmendia. Garmendia appeared in Before Night Falls, and as Bauby's physical therapist in The Diving Bell.
His collaboration with Rula Jebreal, who penned the screenplay and original source novel for Schnabel's film Miral, extended beyond the movie. Schnabel was in a relationship with her from 2007 to June 2011.
In 2012, Schnabel dated May Andersen, a former model and assistant director at the Hole Gallery. Schnabel and Andersen have one son, Shooter, who was born in August 2013.
Schnabel resides at 360 West 11th Street, in a former West Village horse stable that he purchased and converted for residential use, adding five luxury condominiums in the style of a Northern Italian palazzo. It is named the Palazzo Chupi, and it is easy to spot because it is painted pink.
The building is controversial in its Greenwich Village neighborhood because it was built taller than a rezoning, happening at the same time as the construction began, allowed. Neighbors also alleged illegal work done on the site. The Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation and allies called on the city for stricter enforcement, but Schnabel's home eventually rose to the 167 feet he desired, rather than the new 75-foot limit imposed by the Far West Village downzoning of 2005.