Julian Schnabel was born in New York City in 1951. He received his BFA from the University of Houston in 1973. Following his graduation, he applied to the Whitney Independent Study Program; his application consisted of six slides sandwiched between two pieces of bread. He was accepted and graduated from the program in 1974.

Schnabel’s first major solo exhibition was at Contemporary Art Museum Houston in 1976, followed by a solo show at Mary Boone Gallery in 1979, in which Schnabel exhibited his plate paintings for the first time. Other solo exhibitions have been presented at Kunsthalle Basel; Leo Castelli Gallery, New York; Galerie Yvon Lambert, Paris; Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam; Kunsthalle Düsseldorf; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Pace Gallery, New York; Galerie Bruno Bischofberger, St. Moritz and Zürich; Maison Carrée, Nimes; Fundació Joan Miró, Barcelona; Gagosian Gallery, New York and Los Angeles; Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid; Palazzo Venezia, Rome; Schloss Derneburg, Germany; Art Gallery of Ontario, Canada; Museo Correr, Italy; CFA Berlin; J.F. Willumsen Museum, Denmark; The Brant Foundation Art Study Center, Connecticut; Dallas Contemporary, Texas; Dairy Art Centre, London; Museu de Arte de São Paulo; Museum of Art, Fort Lauderdale; the University of Michigan Museum of Art; and Almine Rech Gallery, Paris. Schnabel’s work is included in the public collections of the Museum of Modern Art, New York; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; Guggenheim Museum, Bilbao; and Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris, among many others.

Schnabel lives and works in New York City and Montauk, Long Island.