top of page

Studio on the rue d'Odessa, Paris 1952. Photo: © Guy Bourdin.

Family portrait, 1924
Family portrait, 1924

Shinkichi Tajiri is the baby on the left

press to zoom
Poston 3, Relocation Camp, 1942
Poston 3, Relocation Camp, 1942

oil painting on canvas board, 49x59 cm

press to zoom
Father and Son, 1946
Father and Son, 1946

Carving in limestone, Chicago

press to zoom
One-day sculptures, 1949
One-day sculptures, 1949

photo: © Sabine Weiss

press to zoom
Familie group, 1949
Familie group, 1949

plaster, h: 300 cm In his studio on the Rue d'Odessa in Paris

press to zoom
Working on Warrior/Guerrier
Working on Warrior/Guerrier

plaster, 1949 photo: © Sabine Weiss

press to zoom
COBRA, 1951
COBRA, 1951

The 2nd International Exhibition of Experimental Art (COBRA), Palais de Beaux Arts, Liège, Belgium

press to zoom
rue de la Grande Chaumière, Paris, 1
rue de la Grande Chaumière, Paris, 1

In the courtyard of a studio Tajiri had on the rue de la Grande Chaumière, Paris, 1952 photo: © Guy Bourdin

press to zoom
Tapetenzeitung, 1952
Tapetenzeitung, 1952
press to zoom
Quiet days in Clichy
Quiet days in Clichy

First edition 1956

press to zoom
Wedding Shinkichi & Ferdi, 1957
Wedding Shinkichi & Ferdi, 1957
press to zoom
Castle Scheres, 1962
Castle Scheres, 1962

photo: © Ata Kando/Nederlands Fotomuseum

press to zoom
Minneapolis Tribune, 1964
Minneapolis Tribune, 1964
press to zoom
Casting bronze in Baarlo, 1967
Casting bronze in Baarlo, 1967

Tajiri (left), Karl Kleimann and Isamu Kanamori photo: © Leonard Freed/Magnum Photos, courtesy Brigitte Freed

press to zoom
Developing a daguerreotype
Developing a daguerreotype

Developing a daguerreotype wearing a gas mask. Due to inhaling an excess of insidious fumes Tajiri was forced to stop for health reasons 1973-1976.

press to zoom
Granny's Knot, 1967
Granny's Knot, 1967

Working on Granny's Knot, studio Baarlo photo: © Leonard Freed/Magnum Photos, courtesy Brigitte Freed

press to zoom
Sentinel, cast iron, 2000
Sentinel, cast iron, 2000

Tajiri with his grandchildren at the iron foundry Geraerdts in Baarlo. This 5 meter high Sentinel marks the entrance to the village Nieuw-Bergen, LB. photo: © Kim Zwarts

press to zoom
Sentinels on the bridge, 2007
Sentinels on the bridge, 2007

On May 2, 2007, Queen Beatrix unveiled the four Sentinels on the bridge over the Maas river, Venlo. photo: © Reinier Linders

press to zoom



Shinkichi Tajiri was born in Los Angeles on 7 December 1923, as a son of Japanese parents. He was a sculptor, first and foremost, but he was also involved with photography and made a number of award-winning films, videos, stereo and panoramic photos. His life and artworks include Asian, American and European elements.

After the war he studied at the Art Institute of Chicago from 1947-1948 and then left for Paris, where he first studied with the sculptor Zadkine and later with the painter Léger. Tajiri was one of the first artists who created junk sculptures. With this, he earned the admiration of the Dutch CoBrA artists who resided in Paris. They invited him to take part in the first and second International Exhibition of Experimental Art (CoBrA), respectively in the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam 1949 and Museé des Beaux Arts, Liège 1951.
In 1956, Tajiri took up residence in Amsterdam and in 1962 he moved, together with his wife Ferdi and their two daughters, to Kasteel Scheres in Baarlo near Venlo.

In the Netherlands, Tajiri was admired for his artistic diversity.
He represented the Netherlands at the Documenta II (1959), Documenta III (1964), Documenta IV (1968) and the 31st Venice Biennale (1962).

In 1969 Tajiri was appointed professor at the Hochschule der Künste in Berlin on request by its art students, where he taught until 1989.

During this period he started to experiment with an array of different media including his own off-set printing press (X-Press), nearly forgotten photography methods, such as the Daguerreotypes and his computer drawings on the Commodore Amiga.

After Tajiri passed away the renewed Rijksmuseum (2013), Amsterdam acquired the sculpture Made in USA as well as Ferdi’s Wombtomb, which are on permanent display in the 20th-century collection of the museum.

1923    Born December 7, in Watts, Los Angeles, U.S.A., of Japanese parents: Ryukichi Tajiri                1877-1939) and Fuyo Kikuta (1896-1972), who in 1906, resp. 1913 emigrated to the  

                U.S. They had seven children, of which Shinkichi George is the fifth


1936    Moves to San Diego


1939    His father dies on April 18


1940    Takes lessons in San Diego with the sculptor Donal Hord (1902-1966) in exchange for

               weeding his cactus garden


1941    Attends High School Aerodynamics Technique


 Japan attacks Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, December 7 (on his 18th birthday)


1942    Imprisoned with circa 120,000 Japanese and Japanese-Americans


                February 19, president F. D. Roosevelt signs executive Order 9066, by which circa  

                120,000 Japanese-Americans, Issei and Nisei are evacuated and imprisoned without

                individual charges or trials in concentration camps


                In May internment in the stables of the Assembly Centre Santa Anita Race track.


                In September internment in the Poston 3, Relocation Camp in Arizona, Colorado  

                River Indian Reservation


1943    Volunteers for 442nd Regimental Combat Team, U.S. Army. Basic training at     

                Camp Shelby, Mississippi. A special combat unit entirely independent, comprised

                (except for officers) of Japanese American volunteers


1944    In May the 442nd Regimental Combat Team is shipped to Naples, Italy. Liberation of



                July 9: wounded at Castellina, North of Rome. Hospitalized for 6 months in the 6th

                General Hospital in Rome. Reclassified as Limited Service and serves in France in the

                Army postal service and billeting section


1945    Through stops in Marseille, Nancy (France) he went to Seckenheim


                Special Service as artist, Seckenheim, Germany. Made drawings of Displaced

                Persons from Eastern Europe at Mannheim, Germany


                On leave in Paris, France


1946   January 9: after being demobilized, settles in Chicago, U.S.A., with mother, brothers

               and sister

               Works as an antiques restorer in Japanese antique shop


               Granted purple Heart Medal: one of the most recognized and respected medals 

               awarded to members of the U.S. armed forces


               Works on Father and Son


1947    Works in studio of Isamu Noguchi, New York (August-September)


               Studies for a year at the Art Institute of Chicago with G.I. Bill Stipend


1948   Departs from the United States. September 28: arrival in Le Havre, France

               Move to Paris, September. Follows from October 1948 to November 1949 lessons with

               Ossip Zadkine (Académie Colarossi). Lives in Clamart, Paris


               First contact with Simon Vinkenoog, who works as a model at the private academy of

               Zadkine. Through this contact he meets the CoBrA-artists


               CoBrA is founded on November 8


               Starts working on a series of sculptures Warriors, and Samurai, a reoccurring theme

               throughout his oeuvre


1949   Studies with Fernand Léger from September until September 1950


               Makes One-day sculptures along the banks of the Seine, photographed by Sabine

               Weiss (published in LIFE magazine 1952)


1950   Co-founder of Gallery 8 (Huit) for American artists in Paris


               Group show of G.I. students, Galerie St. Placide. In the review G.I. students show the

               Left Bank is mentioned that Pablo Picasso visited the exhibition and particularly liked

               the sculptures of Tajiri


               He received praise from major critics such as Charles Estienne; and well-known    

               French, Italian, German  and English art magazines published articles about Tajiri’s

               work in which his work is presented next to works by Calder, Gabo, Duchamp,

               Giacometti, Chillida, Gonzales, Arp and other leading sculptors


               American Artists shown at Gallery 8 (Huit): Robert L. Rosenwald, Carmen d’Avino,

               Sydney Geist, Burt Hasen, Al Held, Raymond Hendler, Oscar Chelimsky, George

               Ortman, Harold Tovish


               Studies at Académie de la Grande Chaumière from September 1950 -

               September 1951


               Studio at Rue d’Odessa (Montparnasse), Paris


               Starts the Junk sculpture series


1951   Henri Matisse as chairman of the selection committee of the Salon des Jeunes

               Sculpteurs in Paris chose Tajiri with three other sculptors for this exhibition.
               Le Corbusier is the designer of the exhibition


               Stipend G.I. Bill stops


               Guest professor at Werkkunstschule, Wuppertal, Germany. December 1951 - 

               November 1952


               Works as wallpaper designer at Rasch Tapeten-fabrik, Bramsche, Germany


               Marries Denise Martin on May 25. She was the nurse at the hospital where he was

               treated for hepatitis


1952    Studio at the L’impasse Ronsin at 150-152 Rue Vaugirard, Paris, together with  

                Constantin Brancusi, Max Ernst, Oskar Chelimsky, Jean Tinguely, Eva Aeppli, Niki de

                Saint Phalle


1953    Granted First prize for best German Wallpaper, international Wallpaper exhibition,

                Darmstadt, Germany


                Meets Ferdi Jansen. Starts living together in a studio behind restaurant Wadja, in the

                courtyard at Académie Colarossi and later in Sucy-en-Brie, a suburb of Paris


1954    Divorces Denise Martin on May 13


                Moves with Ferdi to rue Vercingétorix, Paris; they travel together on a 650cc Triumph

                Motercycle through Spain, North Africa, Belgium, The Netherlands, Austria, and Italy


1955    Designs the cover of the novel Molloy by Samuel Beckett


                Makes the film The Vipers which was awarded the Lion d’Or (Golden Lion) for the Best

                Use of the Language of Film at the 8th international Festival for Amateur Films,

                Cannes, France


1956    Designs the cover of the novel Quiet Days in Clichy by Henry Miller with photographs

                of Brassai


                Moves to Amsterdam, The Netherlands, with Ferdi Jansen and they live at Oudezijds

                Achterburgwal 151


1957    Marries Ferdi


                Birth of Giotta Fuyo, June 6, first daughter


                Invents Molar brick technique for bronze casting


1958    Begins sculpture series Drippings


                Family moves to a house and studio on the Valkenburgerstraat 150-152, Amsterdam


1959    Founded the avant-garde group A’dam, together with Wessel Couzijn, Hans Verhulst,

                Ben Guntenaar and Carel Kneulman. This group was short-lived


                Sculpture grant from William and Noma Copley Foundation, in the jury Marcel

                Duchamp, Max Ernst and Hans Arp (William and Noma Copley Foundation later known

                as the Cassandra Collection)


                Birth of Ryu Vinci, April 25, second daughter


1960    Begins using tubular brass elements


                Grant from the John Hay Whitney Foundation, New York


1962    Move to Castle Scheres, Baarlo (Noord-Limburg), The Netherlands


1963    Granted the Mainichi Shibum Prize for sculpture awarded at the Tokyo Biennale,

                Tokyo, Japan


                Gold Medal at the Biennial of San Marino, Italy - Stay of six weeks in Japan

                Travels around the world


1964    Karl Kleimann from Dortmund (Germany) and Isamu Kanamori from Tokyo become    

                assistants in his workshop at Castle Scheres. Karl Kleimann remains his assistant for

                the rest of Tajiri’s life


                Work is shown in group exhibition at Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam with Max Bill,

                Alexander Calder, César, Lynn Chadwick, Wessel Couzijn, Naum Gabo, Emile Gilioli,

                Henry Heerup, Jean Ipoustéguy, Robert Jacobsen, Henri Laurens, Birgitte Meier-

                Denninghoff, Jaap Mooy, Louise Nevelson and Germaine Richier


                Visiting professor at Minneapolis School of Art, U.S.A. Resides with his family and

                assistants in Minneapolis for one year, on invitation of the director Arnold Herstand   

                whom he knew from his time in Paris.


1965    Makes Column for Meditation, a monumental sculpture for the city of St. Paul, 

                Minnesota, U.S.A


                Travels for five months through U.S.A. and Mexico with family and assistants


1966    Starts Machine sculptures. Tajiri’s series of Machines ended in 1968 with the No. 8


                Participates in the local carnival parades with his friends and family. Taped on 1/2

                inch Sony CV American System: video tape no. 1-2-3 Carnival in Baarlo


1967    Makes first Polyester Knot sculptures


1969    Nelson Rockefeller acquires Granny’s Knot; shown at the MoMa, New York


                Death of Ferdi Jansen, February 2


                Visiting professor Hochschule der Künste (HdK, University of the Arts), West-Berlin,

                Germany. On intercession of the students (permanent appointment: professorship in



1970     Suzanne van der Capellen comes to live at Castle Scheres, Baarlo


1971     Grand Prix for the film Bodil Joensen, A Summer Day at the first Wet Dream Film

                 Festival, Amsterdam


                 With his Sony Porta-Pak he records a series of interviews with artists and events


1972     Visiting professor at Minneapolis College of Art and Design, U.S.A. (second time)


                 Creates video workshop and Electronic Bulletin Board which was put up in the hall of

                 the institute


                 Death of mother Fuyo Kikuta-Tajiri


1973     Revival of the daguerreotype photographic technique. Tajiri starts to make a large

                 series of over 1000 daguerreotypes


1976     Marries Suzanne van der Capellen, September 27


1978     Makes Homage to Magritte, installation with stereo photos in stereoscopic view



1981     Granted Honorary Citizen of Los Angeles, U.S.A. and receives the Key to the City of

                 Los Angeles by Mayor Tom Bradley


1986     Travels to China with sixteen students from the Hochschule der Künste, Berlin 

                 Meetings and exhibitions in art schools


1988     Makes drawings of knots on the Commodore Amiga-computer


 1989    Retires from the Hochschule der Künste, Berlin. After twenty years of teaching in

                 retirement: Students say goodbye with exhibition


1992     Granted Officer in the Order of the Orange-Nassau, May 29, chivalric order open to

                 everyone who has earned special merits for society


                 Birth of first grandchild Tanéa Ferdi Teruo, September 29, daughter of Giotta and 

                 Alan Teruo Roberts


1994     Granted Honorary Citizen Bruyères en Vosges, France


                 Birth of second grandchild Shakuru Shin, December 13, son of Giotta and Alan Teruo



1996     Sentinel, commission for the Dutch Ministry of Defense to commemorate the end of

                 the draft, Nassauplein, The Hague. This was the start of a series of Ronin based on

                 the legendary story of the 47 Ronin


2001     Establishes TASHA B.V. (Ta-néa + Sha-kuru, his two grand-children) the Shinkichi

                 Tajiri Estate


2002     Granted Member of the Académie Royale, Brussels, Belgium (nominated in 2000)


2005     Granted Honorary Citizen of Maasbree, The Netherlands (Baarlo is part of this



2007    May 2, Queen Beatrix of The Netherlands unveiled the four Sentinels on the bridge

                over the Maas river in Venlo, The Netherlands


                Granted Knight in the Order of The Netherlands Lion, Dutch order of chivalry


2008    Granted Dutch Citizenship, December 7


2009    In the early morning of Sunday March 15, Shinkichi Tajiri passed away in his studio at

                home amongst his family


2011    Receives posthumously the Congressional Gold Medal for his distinguished service

                during World War II as a member of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team. It is the

                highest civilian award in the United States


2013    The sculptures Made in U.S.A. from Tajiri and Wombtomb from Ferdi were aquired 

                and are on permanent display in the 20th Century collection of the Rijksmuseum

                Opening on April 15 of the renovated Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, the Netherlands

bottom of page