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Follow-up on the Fowler Exhibit

November 23, 2009


photo by Corax of Cha Dao, used with permission

This past August, I alerted readers to the “Steeped in History: The Art of Tea” exhibit that had just opened at the Fowler Museum at UCLA. Beatrice Hohenegger, author of Liquid Jade: The Story of Tea from East to West, was guest curator for this wonderful and informative exhibit. The closing day of the exhibit is the 29th of November, and based on what I’ve read, I heartily encourage anyone within range to go to the effort to go see it in this final week of its run.

For those of us who are geographically challenged by distance or otherwise unable to visit the show in person, Corax of Cha Dao has provided a wonderfully thorough write-up of his visit to the show. I highly recommend reading it if you have even the least bit of interest in tea culture, which I can probably safely assume includes just about anyone reading this. Excerpted:

“Hohenegger’s arrangement of the exhibit is a triumph. Broadly historical in its strokes, it ranges across space and time, but also across the human arts and crafts — ceramics, metallurgy, cabinetry, textiles, painting, sculpture, even architecture — in order to illustrate how far-reaching has been the impact and the appreciation of tea. A matrix organizing the material of this exhibit would have to be at least three-dimensional: chronological, cultural, categorical. And that would not even begin to organize the types of tea entailed, their methods of preparation and enjoyment, or the ways in which people have reacted to the need for tea (aesthetic, spiritual, dietetic, sociological, political). But all of this is represented in the several exhibition rooms of STEEPED IN TEA. Please join me now, gentle reader, for a virtual stroll through these rooms.”

photo by Corax of Cha Dao, used with permission

While reading the article enhanced my disappointment at not being able to attend the exhibit in person, I appreciated the vicarious tour through the rooms provided by lively and engaging descriptions of their contents, concepts and purposes. And aside from my own interest in finding out what items and information were showcased in the exhibit, I am very glad to see this evidence that there is enough interest in tea scholarship and history to make such an exhibit not only possible, but successful.

Make Tea Not WarSome additional details, from the official press release:

Steeped in History: The Art of Tea is guest curated by Beatrice Hohenegger, author of Liquid Jade: The Story of Tea from East to West (St. Martin’s Press, 2007), who also edited the multi-authored volume Steeped in History: The Art of Tea (ISBN: 978-0-9778344-1-9, 2009), published by the Fowler Museum in conjunction with this exhibition and distributed by the University of Washington Press.. Major support for the exhibition and publication is provided by the Henry Luce Foundation.

Presented by Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf.

Mr. Lloyd Cotsen, in memory of Bob Ahmanson, generously funded the publication. Additional support is generously provided by Patsy and Robert Sung and The Edna and Yu-Shan Han Charitable Foundation. The accompanying programs are made possible through the Yvonne Lenart Public Programs Fund, the UCLA Asia Institute and Manus, the support group for the Fowler Museum.

Note: The “Make Tea Not War” poster shown above, which is one of the concluding images of the Fowler exhibit, was designed by an agency called Karmarama for use during the British anti-war protests at the start of the Iraq War. The man under the cup is, of course, Tony Blair.

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