Julian Schnabel, one of the major figures in contemporary painting, is an artist with a vision to match the scale of his work. As one of a handful of artists in the 1980s who changed the world’s perception of contemporary art, Schnabel pushed the boundaries of painting into areas that confronted accepted ideas of Expressionism, kitsch and beauty, drawing on a romantic understanding of the history of art to create modern statements that have been acclaimed and derided in equal measure. As he puts it: “Modern art does not just mean ‘made today’; it is a confluence of new and old that permits an awareness of the present.”
It is impossible to overstate the impact of Schnabel’s work in contemporary art circles. The exhibition, the first on this scale to be seen since his ground-breaking show at the Whitechapel Art Gallery twelve years ago, will include three vast paintings shown recently in N’mes and a series of portraits from his New York show at Pace Wildenstein last November. This is the first and only showing of these paintings in the UK and a great opportunity for London audiences to see Schnabel’s magnificent new work, which he describes as being rich “in poetic and accumulative meaning.” The huge Victorian gallery space at the South London Gallery is the ideal location for Schnabel’s show. Built in the 1880s, the Gallery is flooded with natural light from above and will create a dramatic setting in which to view these paintings.