Julian Schnabel was born in New York City in 1951. In 1965 he moved with his family to Brownsville, Texas. He attended the University of Houston from 1969-73, receiving a B.F.A., and returned to New York to participate in the Whitney Museum Independent Study Program.
In 1978 Schnabel travelled throughout Europe, and in Barcelona he 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.
Schnabel’s work has been exhibited all over the world. His paintings, sculptures and works on paper have been the subject of numerous retrospective exhibitions: The Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, 1982; Tate Gallery, London, 1982; Whitechapel Gallery, London, 1987; Kunsthalle Düsseldorf, Düsseldorf, 1987; Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris, 1987; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, 1987; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco, 1987; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, 1987; Musée d’Art Contemporain, Nîmes, 1989; Staatliche Graphische Sammlung, Munich, 1989; Palais des Beaux-Arts, Brussels, 1989; Fruitmarket Gallery, Edinburgh, 1989; Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, 1989; Museo de Arte Contemporáneo, Monterrey, 1994; Fundació Joan Miró, Barcelona, 1995; Galleria d’Arte Moderna di Bologna, Bologna, 1996; Schirn Kunsthalle, Frankfurt/Main, 2004; Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid, 2004; Rotonda della Besana, Milan, 2007; Tabakalera, Donostia-San Sebastián, 2007; Museo di Capodimonte, Naples, 2009; The Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto, 2010; Museo Correr, Piazza San Marco, Venice, 2011; J.F. Willumsens Museum, Frederikssund, 2013; The Brant Foundation Art Study Center, Greenwich, 2013; Dallas Contemporary, Dallas, 2014; Gagosian Gallery, New York, 2014; Dairy Art Centre, London, 2014; Museu de Arte de São Paulo, São Paulo, 2014 and Museum of Art Fort Lauderdale, Fort Lauderdale, 2014.
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 for Javier Bardem at the 2000 Venice Film Festival. The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (2007) won Schnabel the award for best director at both the Cannes Film Festival and the Golden Globe Awards, and led to four Academy Award nominations. His most recent film, Miral, won the UNESCO as well as the UNICEF award at the 2010 Venice Film Festival. Miral was shown at the General Assembly at the United Nations.
His work is included in the public 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 Gallery, London; Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum, Tokyo; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid; National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C.; National Gallery of Australia, Canberra; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco; Hamburger Bahnhof, Berlin; Kunstmuseum, Basel; Fondation Musée d’Art Moderne, Luxembourg; and Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris.
Schnabel currently lives and works in New York City and Montauk, Long Island.