Born in Brooklyn, New York in 1951. In 1965 he moved with his family to Brownsville, Texas. He attended the University of Houston from 1969 to 1973, receiving a BFA, and returned to New York to participate in the Independent Study Program at the Whitney Museum of American Art. In 1978 Schnabel traveled throughout Europe and, in Barcelona, was particularly moved by the architecture of Antoni Gaudí. That same year he made his first plate painting, “The Patients and the Doctors.” His first solo painting exhibition took place at the Mary Boone Gallery in New York City in February 1979.
His paintings, sculptures, and works on paper have been the subject of numerous solo exhibitions: the Kunsthalle Basel, 1981; Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, 1982; Tate Gallery, London, 1982; Akron Art Museum, 1983; Whitechapel Gallery, London, 1986; Kunsthalle Düsseldorf, Germany, 1987; Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris, 1987; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, 1987–1988; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, 1988; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, 1988; Museum für Gegenwartskunst, Basel, 1989; Setagaya Art Museum, Tokyo, 1989; The National Museum of Art, Osaka, 1989; Musée d’art contemporain de Nîmes, France, 1989–1990; Staatliche Graphische Sammlung München, Munich, 1990; Palais des Beaux-Arts, Brussels, 1990; The Fruitmarket Gallery, Edinburgh, 1990; Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, 1990; Museo de Monterrey, Mexico, 1994; Fundació Joan Miró, Barcelona, 1995; Galleria d’Arte Moderna di Bologna, Italy, 1996–1997; Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt, 2004; Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid, 2004; Schloss Derneburg, Germany, 2007; Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma, Helsinki, 2008; Museo di Capodimonte, Naples, 2009; Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto, 2010–2011; Museo Correr, Venice, 2011; J. F. Willumsens Museum, Frederikssund, 2013; The Brant Foundation Art Study Center, Greenwich, Connecticut, 2013–2014; Dallas Contemporary, 2014; Museu de Arte de São Paulo, 2014; NSU Art Museum Fort Lauderdale, Florida, 2015; Aspen Art Museum, Colorado, 2016–2017; The Glass House, New Canaan, 2017; the Legion of Honor, San Francisco, 2018; Musée d’Orsay, Paris, 2018; and ARoS Aarhus Kunstmuseum, Aarhus, 2018.
In 1996 Schnabel wrote and directed the feature film “Basquiat,” about fellow New York artist Jean-Michel Basquiat. The film was in the official selection of the 1996 Venice Film Festival. Schnabel’s second film, “Before Night Falls,” based on the life of the late exiled Cuban novelist Reinaldo Arenas, won both the Grand Jury Prize and the Coppa Volpi for Best Actor, Javier Bardem, at the 2000 Venice Film Festival. In 2007 Schnabel directed his third film, “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly.” Schnabel received the award for Best Director at the Cannes Film Festival as well as Best Director at the Golden Globe Awards, where the film won Best Foreign Language Film. “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly” was nominated for four Oscars. That same year, 2007, Schnabel made a film of Lou Reed’s “Berlin” concert at Saint Ann’s Warehouse in Brooklyn, New York. Following that, his film “Miral” won the UNESCO as well as the UNICEF award at the 2010 Venice Film Festival. “Miral” was shown at the General Assembly Hall of the United Nations. Schnabel’s most recent film, “At Eternity’s Gate” (2018), with Willem Dafoe as Vincent Van Gogh, premiered at the 2018 Venice Film Festival, where Mr. Dafoe won the Coppa Volpi for Best Actor, and was nominated for Best Actor at the Golden Globes at the 2019 Academy Awards.
His work is included in the permanent collections of the Museum of Modern Art, New York; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; Guggenheim Museum, New York and Bilbao; Tate, London; Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid; National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC; National Gallery of Australia, Canberra; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; Hamburger Bahnhof, Berlin; Musée d’Art Moderne Grande-Duc Jean, Luxembourg; and Centre Pompidou, Paris.
Julian Schnabel currently lives and works in New York City and Montauk, Long Island.