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Steeped in History: The Art of Tea

August 20, 2009

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Fowler Museum at UCLA

Last Sunday a new exhibit opened at the Fowler Museum at UCLA called, Steeped in History: The Art of Tea. The show looks to be quite a fabulous display of all sorts of tea-related objects and information, spanning several centuries and countries. Sadly, I don’t think I’m going to be able to see it myself since I’m a considerable distance away from Los Angeles, but the exhibit promises to provide an exceptional tea-related experience to anyone who attends.

From the press kit:

“Hot or iced, bagged or loose, black or green—whatever form it takes, enjoying a cup of tea is an act performed at least three billion times a day the world over. Indeed, more people drink tea than any other beverage except water. Steeped in History: The Art of Tea—on display at the Fowler Museum at UCLA from Aug 16–Nov 29, 2009—is a wide-ranging survey that brings together art from three continents and many centuries to delve into the history and culture of tea.

Traveling from Asia to the West, tea has played a variety of profound roles on the world scene—as an ancient health remedy, an element of cultural practice, and source of spiritual insight. Historically it was also a catalyst for international conflicts and horrific labor conditions in various countries.

Throughout its history tea has been a prevalent theme in the visual arts—scenes of tea embellish ceramics and textiles and are the subject of paintings and drawings, and all manner of vessels have been fashioned for the preparation and presentation of tea. Steeped in History brings together rare Chinese ceramics and paintings, 18th- and 19th-century Japanese ceramics and prints, extraordinary English and Colonial American paintings, vintage photographs and historical documents, tea-serving paraphernalia and furniture from many countries, and much more —to tell the fascinating history of tea.”

The major themes/sections of the exhibit are:
China, The Cradle of Tea Culture
Chado, The Way of Tea in Japan
Tea Craze in the West
Tea and Empire

Susanna_TruaxBeatrice Hohenegger, author of Liquid Jade: The Story of Tea from East to West, served as guest curator of the exhibit and she also edited the companion book, which is not yet available for online purchase, but you can request notification be sent to you when it is. The show is sponsored by The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf.

Read the full press release for additional information about the show.

The strangely flat and oddly inexpressive painting shown above – used in a number of the Fowler Museum’s marketing materials for this show – is called Susanna Truax. It was painted in oil on a 16×20 canvas in 1730 by an unknown American artist.

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