Past Exhibitions

On the Beach—Jurgen Lehl’s Messages from the Sea

Oct 8th, 2016 - Feb 5th, 2017


Towada Art Center is pleased to present On the Beach—Jurgen Lehl’s Messages from the Sea, on view Saturday, October 8, 2016 through Sunday, February 5, 2017.

Jurgen Lehl (1944­—2014) was celebrated for his line of products, which made the most of natural materials in his original clothing, textile, and jewelry designs. After first visiting in 1966, Lehl made Japan his home in the early 1970s, creating products with natural materials and craftsmanship of Japan and other parts of Asia. He lamented the destruction of the natural environment and how it seemed to parallel the progressive loss of traditional techniques and their artisans.

Grieved and appalled by the endless amount of trash that washed onto the beaches of his home and farm on Ishigaki Island in Okinawa, Lehl channeled his energy into repurposing the trash he collected into things of beauty and utility. The highlights of this exhibition are Lehl’s lamps, made from bits of plastic collected on shores near his home. Also on display are his photographs, which contrast the beauty of the sea with its current polluted state. Other works by artist Chris Jordan will also make a special appearance. Jordan’s photos and videos capture seabird carcasses filled with plastic waste mistakenly fed to them by their parents.

Lehl’s beautiful, utilitarian lighting fixtures raise concern for nature, the source of all human life. Together with the works of his respected friend Chris Jordan, Lehl’s messages from the sea ring loud and clear.

These artworks were well received at both the Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo and KYOTOGRAPHIE International Photography Festival. We are excited to present this exhibition in a completely new spatial configuration that is unique to the Towada Art Center.


© Yuriko Takagi

Lehl moved to Japan in 1971 after working as a textile designer in Paris and New York during the 1960s. He founded his own company and began designing clothes, furniture, kitchenware, and more. He is now known as a pioneer of lifestyle design. In 2006, Lehl conceived and launched the Babaghuri label, which focuses on handicraft and environmentally friendly production.

In a unique display of playful satire, Lehl combined colorful flecks of plastic waste to create lighting fixtures that shed light on marine pollution, a grave issue that deeply concerned him. In 2015, these lamps were displayed at the Artipelag in Stokholm, Sweden, and at the Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo in posthumous exhibitions following Lehl’s fatal accident in September 2014.

Selected Group Exhibitions
Feb 2015 EARTH MATTERS: When Natural & Creative Forces Meet, Artipelag (Stockholm, Sweden)
Jul 2015 An Art Exhibition for Children: Whose place is this?, Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo
Apr 2016 Chris Jordan + Jurgen Lehl | Midway: Message from the Gyre, KYOTOGRAPHIE International Photography Festival

Related Publications
Tadanori Yokoo, Made In Japan: The Textiles Of Jurgen Lehl (Meid (Tokyo: Parco, 1983)
Leonard Koren, New Fashion Japan (New York, Kodansha, 1984)
Richard Martin and Harold Koda, Flair: Fashion Collected by Tina Chow (New York: Rizzoli, 1992)
Jurgen Lehl and Yuriko Takagi, Koromo: Jurgen Lehl’s Fabrics (Tokyo: Libro Port, 1997)
Jurgen Lehl, ZOMO (Tokyo: Jurgen Lehl Co.,Ltd., 2002)
Jurgen Lehl, Babaghuri (Tokyo: Jurgen Lehl Co.,Ltd., 2005)
Akito Akagi et al., Cha no hako (Tokyo: Rutles, 2004)
Jurgen Lehl and Yuriko Takagi, DACHI (Tokyo: Rutles, 2005)
Yuriko Takagi et al., Jurgen Lehl to Babaghuri wo sagasiniiku (Tokyo: PHP Editors Group, 2009)
Jurgen Lehl (photography) and Kazuko Koike (text), On the Beach 1 / On the Beach 2 (Tokyo: Hehe, 2015)



On the Beach—Jurgen Lehl’s Messages from the Sea


Oct 8th, 2016 - Feb 5th, 2017


Towada Art Center


9:00-17:00 (admission until 30 minutes before closing)


Mondays (except for National Holidays, in which case the Center is open on the holiday and closed the following Tuesday)
(Closed Monday, December 26 – Sunday, January 1, 2017, for New Year’s Holidays)


Exhibition: 600 yen
Collection + Exhibition: 1,000 yen
Children (18 and Under): Free
100 yen/ticket discount for groups of 20 or more


Towada Art Center

In cooperation with

Jurgen Lehl Co., Ltd.

With the Support of

To-o Nippo Press, Daily Tohoku Shimbun, Aomori Broadcasting Corporation, Aomori Television Broadcasting Company, Asahi Broadcasting Aomori Company, Towada City Board of Education

Artwork contributed by

Chris Jordan & KYOTOGRAPHIE International Photography Festival

Related Events

Photos from the Exhibition