Life on the Big Canvas: The art of Julian Schnabel

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Julian Schnabel makes art out of life. He uses everyday materials in paintings that carry a rich sense of history, he directs movies that paint portraits of artists and other heroes, and he builds his own dream of a Venetian palace in New York. This oversize limited-edition book, made in close collaboration with the artist, is the first to feature his work in all media and offers the most generous opportunity to experience Schnabel’s art outside of meeting it in person.

The art of Julian Schnabel

I want my life to be in my work, crushed into my painting like a pressed car. If it’s not, my work is just some stuff”.

Julian Schnabel said this on the eve of his first solo exhibition in New York in 1979 that made him an overnight success. Since then, he has been synonymous with painting’s return to new relevance. Schnabel finds his materials in the fabric of the everyday. His plate paintings use broken crockery to form an improbable picture, ground in everyday materials, while he also paints on velvet, market stall covers, army tarps, kabuki theater backdrops, and boxing ring floors—materials that lend their history to a painterly exploration, often discovered on his travels or around his outdoor studios.

The art of Julian Schnabel

Place is important to Schnabel, both when he is creating the works, and when installing them in specific sites that add their own rich history to the layers of meaning. His art knows no distinction between abstract and figurative, but sometimes the figurative shapes find their own lives in sculptures that transpose the paintings into space as raw, seemingly time-worn artifacts. Meanwhile, Schnabel has become famous as a movie director, creating six films to date, including Basquiat (1996), which offered an inside view of the New York art scene of the late 1970s and ‘80s and an intimate portrait of its title star; The Diving Bell and Butterfly (2007), a portrait of a man with locked-in syndrome refusing to give up that won Schnabel two Golden Globes; and the Van Gogh portrait At Eternity’s Gate (2018), a testament to the spirit of creativity.

The art of Julian Schnabel

The complete range of Schnabel’s work is now portrayed in unprecedented depth in this limited-edition book, made in close collaboration with the artist, who selected the works and designed the cover.

The texts were contributed by friends and collaborators: Laurie Anderson draws a close portrait of the artist; in three art-historical essays, Éric de Chassey discusses the paintings, Bonnie Clearwater the sculpture, and Max Hollein the site-specific work; Donatien Grau writes on the Palazzo Chupi, the artist’s dream of a Venetian palace in New York’s West Village; while the novelist Daniel Kehlmann explores his cinematic oeuvre. This fittingly oversized edition allows you to study the surfaces and the many painterly incidents, offering the most generous opportunity to experience Schnabel’s art outside of meeting it in person.

Limited Collector’s Edition (No. 136–1,135), numbered and signed by Julian Schnabel. Also published in two different Art Editions.

The art of Julian Schnabel

The editors

Hans Werner Holzwarth is a book designer and editor specializing in contemporary art and photography. His TASCHEN publications include the Collector’s Editions Jeff KoonsChristopher WoolAlbert OehlenAi Weiwei, and the David Hockney SUMO A Bigger Book, as well as monographs like the XXL-sized Jean-Michel Basquiat.

Louise Kugelberg is an interior designer born in Sweden, who has refurbished 18th-century buildings housing private art collections, worked collaboratively to design luxury boutique hotels, and constructed a massive portable pavilion tent out of recycled ocean plastic for Parley for the Oceans. Over the past five years, she has worked extensively with Julian Schnabel, designing exhibition spaces and catalogs as well as co-writing and editing the film At Eternity’s Gate. She lives and works in New York.

Julian Schnabel
Collector’s Edition, limited to 1,000 copies, numbered and signed by Julian Schnabel

Hans Werner HolzwarthLouise Kugelberg

Credits: © Courtesy of TASCHEN