Who would have expected to find a [free] exhibition of 14 major works by Julian Schnabel, some of them never shown before in Italy, in Foligno, a small city in Umbria? In fact, since 2009 (after 9 years of development), the Fondazione Cassa di Risparmio di Foligno has founded the Centro Italiano Arte Contemporanea – an impressive art space, contemporary is its exhibitions as well as its architecture.
Schnabel (b. 1951), one of the most famous artists known on the international scene for both his painting and his cinematography, lives and works in New York. For many years, he resided in Texas and received his BFA from the University of Houston and soon moved to NYC where he began showing his work at the Holly Soloman Gallery, and in 1979 had two solo exhibitions at the Mary Boone Gallery, before showing with Leo Castelli. The artist traveled Europe and Italy, and in 1980, participated in the Venice Biennale where he met Francesco Clemente, Anselm Kiefer, and Georg Baselitz.
His work of the 1980s is considered Neo-expressionist, partially swayed by the Italian Transvanguardia and has been celebrated as “a return to painting” by many critics. Schnabel has also been influenced by works of Antonio Gaudi, Joseph Beuys, and friend, Cy Twombly. His painting became expressionist in nature while incorporating found objects and materials and was seen as a reaction against Minimalism and Conceptualism that he shared with other painters of the same genre such as David Salle, Eric Fischl, and Sigmar Polke. His work is included in major international museum collections in the MoMA, Met, Whitney, MOCA, Reina Sofia, Tate Modern, Georges Pompidou, and the Guggenheim in Bilbao.
Schnabel always makes big bold statements, in his artwork and his personality, and has not always been loved by the critical art world. But one cannot argue that his works are powerful in scale and passionate in expression with a common rough texture and manipulation of materials. He creates an eclectic language in revealing the human condition and memory in painting, as well as in his photography and films.
In 1995, he created a film about his friend Jean Michel Basquiat, honoring the painter after his young and tragic death in 1988. In 1999 he directed Before Night Falls on the life of the sculptor Cuban exile Reinaldo Arenas, who in 2000 won the Grand Jury Prize and the Volpi Cup for Best Actor, Javier Bardem, at the Venice Film Festival. In 2007 he made his third film The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, based on the novel by Jean Dominique Bauby, which won the award for Best Director at the Cannes Film Festival. The 64th edition of the International Venice Film Festival is part of the Commission of Venice Movie Stars Photography Award.
In Italy, 1996, he had a major retrospective at the Gallery of Modern Art of Bologna, and in 2004 at the Galleria Cardi & Co in Milan, and in 2007 he had two major solo exhibitions in Rome and Milan, where he showed up at the opening press conference in silk pajamas, which has become his signature style. Recently, the artist had a solo exhibition in the Los Angeles at the Gagosian Gallery.
The exhibition at the CIAC is curated and presented in a small catalog by Italo Tomassoni. On display are 14 large-scale works that exemplify Schanbel’s work from 1985 to 2008. Eight of the works belong to the gallerist Gian Enzo Sperone, while the other six belong to a private Milanese collector. One of these paintings is JMB, 1988, oil and gesso on military cloth, 487×487 cm, created just after Basquiat’s suicide.
The museum isn’t super easy to find and I did not notice any posters or adverts about the exhibition around town, but Foligno merits a visit for its contemporary art also found in 2 other locations coming up in future posts, that are actually churches: Chiesa della Santissima Trinità and the Chiesa di San Paolo Apostolo.
April 20 – June 23, 2013
Centro Italiano Arte Contemporanea
Via del Campanile, 13 – Foligno (PG), Italy
T (+39) 0742 357035
Hours: Friday, Saturday, and Sunday 10am-1pm and 3:30-7pm