Shinkichi Tajiri: The Restless Wanderer

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The Restless Wanderer

"During the TEFAF days in Maastricht, I had a chance to attend “Shinkichi Tajiri: The Restless Wanderer” exhibition at the Bonnefanten (Maastricht, the Netherlands). The exhibition celebrates the 100th anniversary of the birth of the Japanese-American artist Shinkichi Tajiri, and was curated by the grandchildren of the artist Tanéa and Shakuru Tajiri." - Natalia Shpytkovska

“Curating this exhibition has given us an opportunity to re-examine our grandfather's life and reconsider his profound influence on us. We wish not only to pay tribute to our grandfather and his oeuvre but also to spotlight his role and significance as a father and grandfather. We believe that Shinkichi’s story will resonate with many.
Themes of migration and exile are universal and carry a tragically current significance. We hope that this exhibition, initially born from displacement and exile, can ultimately serve as a platform that brings together people of various backgrounds and ages.” - Tanéa & Shakuru Tajiri

To properly understand Shinkichi Tajiri’s work, the exhibition takes visitors back 100 years, to the moment Shinkichi Tajiri was born as the fourth son of the first generation of Japanese immigrants. Enlisting in the US Army in 1943 was Shinkichi Tajiri’s opportunity to escape the concentration camp. In 1944, he suffered severe injuries north of Rome.
Until the end of his military service, he was stationed in various locations in France and Germany. Despite his attempts to build a new life, he was constantly subjected to the racial consequences of World War II suffered by people of Japanese origin. In 1948, he decided to turn his back on the United States permanently and find a new home. From one day to the next, he became a ‘restless wanderer’.

Paris held a great appeal for Tajiri, and he decided to move to this global haven for creatives, where he met many inspirational people such as sculptor Zadkine and painter Léger. This combination of artistic influences and his traumatic memories of the war yielded innovative work which was noticed by members of the Dutch CoBrA movement. In 1949, he took part in a group exhibition with them at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, and at the Palais des Beaux-Arts in Liège in 1951.

His sculptures, films, poems, photographs and paintings are infused with symbols and references to his Japanese and American identity, the break with his homeland, and his experiences in the war. For him, art was a means of survival and a way to cope with trauma.
The exhibition is a collaboration between the Shinkichi Tajiri estate and the Bonnefanten and runs until May 12, 2024
Avenue Ceramique 250, 6221 KX Maastricht, the Netherlands