Julian Schnabel's version of Goya's 'Queen María Luisa on horseback'/francisco hinojasa

Julian Schnabel's version of Goya's 'Queen María Luisa on horseback' / francisco hinojasa

A monumental encounter between Schnabel, Goya and Velázquez

The CAC Malaga is showing more than 20 large-scale works by the American artist in which he reinterprets classics of Spanish painting


The opening was later than planned, mainly due to the hauliers strike a few weeks ago which left the Julian Schnabel exhibition 'Schnabel and Spain: Anything can serve as a model for a painting' at the CAC Malaga with mostly bare walls.

Now the works are all in place but the artist, who is one of the great names in contemporary art, was not there for the inauguration. Nevertheless, his presence could not only be seen through the monumental oil paintings which are his tribute to and a reinterpretation of Velázquez and Goya, but in the way they are displayed, which the American artist supervised himself, explained the curator of the exhibition, Fernando Francés, and Cy Schnabel, his son.

"My father is not very well-known for his portraits, so it is interesting to see this collection of 'resin portraits' in which he gives his version of works such as Velázquez's Christ, which is on display at the Prado Museum, and Goya's Duchess of Alba," said Cy, standing by a gigantic work which opens the exhibition.

It is easily recognisable as Goya's 'Queen María Luisa on horseback', but with a white stripe running from north to south through the painting. That is a personal touch which passes from one work to another in this collection of more than 20 pieces which can be seen at the CAC Malaga until 12 June.

"That is the game that interests the artist, playing with the past of a recognisable original work but converting it into something of the present day through an intervention which is clearly recognisable as his," explained Cy Schnabel about his father's way of reusing classics. It explains the subtitle of the name of the exhibition: 'anything can serve as a model for a painting'.

This approach to the masters of Spanish portraiture began in the late 1990s when the painter and director of the films 'Antes que anochezca' and 'Basquiat' was living in Spain, and it continued in the 'goat series' from 2013, with the conception of these 'portraits' which followed the rules of the equestrian genre but with digital techniques. Once again, this is the Schnabelian idea of the old and the new, the ancient and the modern, the classic and the contemporary.

"For me these works - with the figure of the goat - are self-portraits of my father," said Cy Schnabel, who also discovered a personal and almost Freudian note in the size of the oils and other paintings on display, some of which have a sculptural appearance.

"The dimensions correspond to the scale on which the painter lives, which is monumental," he said about the size of the works and all the work of an artist who is defined by his ability to reinvent himself and recodify his art at any moment.

The display also includes some of Julian Schnabel's most recent works, in which material items become the protagonist. Now we see tatty old tarpaulins that covered cars for years becoming canvases on which the white stains remain, but which figuration converts into abstraction.

"These are objects which he takes out of their original context and transforms into works of art," said Cy, and also pointed to the Spanish influence on this series which recalls another creator of icons, Tapies.

The magnetism of the white stripes is the great protagonist of this exhibition, although the symbolism is open to interpretation.

"For me they represent the present; when a spectator is standing in front of these works, the white stripe connects them with the now and shows this tension between the past and the present," said Schnabel Junior, who also pointed out that they could be interpreted as an erasing-out, a disrespectful and defiant graffiti by the artist towards classic works or the iconic images on which they are based.

"It's like killing off the father, although he is still recognisable," commented Fernando Francés.