Lot 72
  • 72

Julian Schnabel

1,000,000 - 1,500,000 USD
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  • Julian Schnabel
  • 800 Blows
  • signed on the reverse of the right panel
  • broken ceramic, bondo and oil on wood, in three parts
  • overall: 108 x 84 x 36 in. 274.3 x 213.3 x 91.4 cm.
  • Executed in 1983.


Mary Boone Gallery, New York
Barbara Schwartz, New York (acquired from the above in 1983)
Galerie Bruno Bischofberger, Zurich (acquired from the above in 2004)
Acquired by the present owner from the above


Montreal, Musée d'art contemporain, Via New York, May - June 1984, p. 32, illustrated in color
New York, The Pace Gallery, Julian Schnabel, November - December 1984, cat. no. 6, illustrated in color
Miami, Museum of Contemporary Art, Mythic Proportions: Painting in the 1980s, February - May 2001, n.p., illustrated
Zurich, Galerie Bruno Bischofberger, Durenand, May 2007 - January 2008


This work is in excellent condition. The surface is slightly dusty overall, particularly within the crockery. A small number of the crockery shards exhibit hairline cracks that are consistent with the artist's choice of found objects. Close inspection shows a handful of areas of exposed wooden support and a few random pieces of crockery with breaks of a more recent vintage primarily in the bottom half of the work as is anticipated and acceptable to the artist. This work has not been inspected under ultraviolet light.
In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective qualified opinion.

Catalogue Note

Julian Schnabel’s 800 Blows from 1983 is a triumph of the series that launched his career. The work confronts the viewer with a sheer physicality that bridges the divide between painting and sculpture. Immensely powerful and monumental in scale, 800 Blows includes an impressive array of broken ceramic across three wooden constructions. First exhibited at the Mary Boone Gallery in 1979, Schnabel’s Plate Paintings granted him new heights of international recognition. These were the works that compelled Leo Castelli to represent Schnabel, who became the first new artist that the legendary gallerist would show for twelve years. The Plate Paintings also comprised Schnabel’s entry to the Venice Biennale in 1980. In the present work, the elements of Schnabel’s artistic vocabulary are still as striking and relevant as when they were first seen by the contemporary art world over thirty years ago.

Fixed like puzzle pieces on a Cubist composition, Schnabel’s broken plates fill the pictorial space surrounding a classical head imbued with a hopeful and contemplative expression. Inspired by a walk through Antoni Gaudi’s architecturally designed Park Güell in Barcelona and engulfed in mosaic and a burnt color palette, 800 Blows exemplifies Schnabel’s unique understanding of the complementary relationship between art, expression and contemporary culture.

Here plates are taken from the dinner table and placed on a vertical plane in the tradition of the ready-mades of Picasso, Duchamp and Rauschenberg, bringing a new dimension to the domestic purpose of this unusual media. Schnabel notes in his autobiography that “The concreteness of a painting can’t help but allude to a world of associations that may have a completely other face than that of the image you are looking at." (Julian Schnabel, CVJ: Nicknames of Maitre D's & Other Excerpts From Life, New York, 1987, p. 41) The plates in this series are transcendent, reversing a familiar ceramic into an original narrative.

The work’s immense scale summons a dynamic sense of play and movement. Schnabel layers the broken pieces within the confines of the wood construction, allowing for organic cracks to emerge like fossils in the series. Schnabel’s visually stimulating color palette utilizes a well-balanced mix of contrasts and muted tones. Utterly unique within the corpus of Schnabel’s Plate Paintings800 Blows brilliantly illustrates his impressive grasp of artistic expression and material. Engulfing in its size, the work offers a singular example of Schnabel’s artistic language and perfectly represents the start of an illustrious career.