Julian Schnabel Takes Toronto by Storm


Julian Schnabel Untitled (Self-Portrait) 2005 © 2005 Julian Schnabel

Renowned New York artist/filmmaker/photographer, Julian Schnabel, is making a big splash in the Toronto art world. Julian Schnabel: Art and Film, his upcoming exhibition at the AGO, will showcase about 60 pieces including paintings, sculptures and photography. Cinematic themes and personalities are common subject matters in Schnabel’s work and this exhibit highlights his longstanding relationship between art and film.

Well known for his eccentric personality, Schnabel first garnered international status in the early 80s with his large-scale paintings set on broken ceramic plates and by the mid-80s he had become a prominent force in the Neo-expressionism movement. Sizeable canvases filled with bold strokes and vibrant colours often typify his paintings.

Having received some harsh reviews from the critics over the years – the rich and famous worship him – Schnabel’s works of art sell for millions and his exhibitions often sellout. At his recent AGO premiere the 58-year-old artist spoke candidly about this criticism, “You don’t always get the ball back in your court.” He cites a reference from The Godfather where Vito Corleone, the head of the Corleone crime family, gets shot five times and doesn’t die. Schnabel adds, “I say, if you get five bullets in you and you’re still standing, you got to be worth something.”

The “Schnabel hype” is quickly gaining more momentum as his latest film, Miral, will have its North American premiere at TIFF which kicks off a week after the opening of his AGO exhibit. Starring Freida Pinto and Willem Dafoe, the film is about a Palestinian woman who opens an orphanage in Jerusalem following the creation of Israel in 1948. Schnabel is best known for films such as Basquiat and The Diving Bell and the Butterfly and has received many awards included the Golden Globe and an Academy Award nomination.

The love affair between Schnabel and Toronto is evident, “I like this town you have here, it feels so familiar,” he says. “It’s like Houston, or some other places I’ve been. It’s like this computer chip run amuck, with all different kinds of architecture everywhere. It also feels like the United States did 50 years ago before everything went to shit.”

Julian Schnabel: Art and Film runs September 1, 2010 to January 2, 2011 at the AGO. Schnabel will appear at a public talk on September 15 and four of his films – Basquiat (1996), Before Night Falls (2001), Lou Reed: Berlin (2007) and The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (2007) – will screen throughout the exhibition’s run. You can catch his film, Miral, at TIFF on September 13, 2010 @ Ryerson Theatre, 6pm (Premium Screening) and September 14, 2010 @ Varsity B, 9am