Julian Schnabel

Painting the world in all kinds of ways.

Julian Schnabel (he/him) was born 1951 in Brooklyn, New York. He now lives and works between his New York City home Palazzo Chupi and Montauk, Long Island.


Schnabel’s work appears in the collections of major institutions worldwide, including MOMA, the Guggenheim, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Whitney in New York, Centre Pompidou in Paris and the Guggenheim in Bilbao. He is also a critically-acclaimed filmmaker, awarded Best Director for The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (2007) at both Cannes Film Festival and the Golden Globes.

Did you know?

At the age of 14 Schnabel moved from Brooklyn to Brownsville, Texas. It was here that his lifelong passion for surfing began. The appeal? Much like painting – freedom.

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Practice overview

Julian Schnabel’s far-reaching practice spans painting, sculpture and film. Use of material throughout is expansive and mutable. Wood, velvet, linoleum, army tarpaulins and animal hides all act as sculptural surfaces – layered with mediums such as wax, car bondo and resin. Similarly, recovered postcards, old x-rays and found images become grounds for new paintings. The artist’s Plate Paintings began in the 1970s and continue today. To create them he breaks plates. Reassembles them. Then paints over the top. They arrive as portraits and landscapes – sometimes abstract, often allegorical. Self Portraits of Others (2021) at New York’s Brant Foundation examined the theme of portraiture throughout history with 25 new Plate Paintings based on emblematic works by the likes of Caravaggio, Velasquez, Vincent van Gogh and Frida Kahlo.

For more than half a century Schnabel has pursued “all kinds of painting.” Works are often conceived in or for particular spaces he encounters – whether a tennis court, a hotel or a Roman palace. Furthermore, they respond to the continued life of each location. Paintings created in his open air Montauk studio, for example, often wear the effects of the weather that passes through it. A label-evading approach embodies Schnabel’s belief that “signaturising is the death of the artist.” For him, painting is a philosophy. A way of looking at the world. Everything, however abstract, is observational. “I’m just painting what I’m seeing,” he says. “I’m just trying to connect the dots of my own vision.”

“As an artist what do I do? I point, and say – “did you see that? Can you feel that?” Julian Schnabel