Among Friends

Japanese Tea Ceramics

Period of time
28.6.19 – 23.2.20
Teaser text

Japanese tea ceramics are valued by so-called tea people (chajin) for qualities that go far beyond mere utility. When used in the ritualised traditional tea ceremony (chanoyu, literally "hot water for tea"), the individual vessels take on a very personal meaning. Outstanding pieces are even given names by their makers, or more often by their owners. For each tea ceremony, the host tries to select just the right vessels and utensils for the particular occasion, the season and the expected guests. In the exhibition "Among Friends. Japanese Tea Ceramics", the MK&G presents over 150 outstanding objects connected with the tea ceremony, including tea bowls (chawan), water jars (mizusashi), vases (hanaire) and tea containers (chaire) representing the foremost Japanese ceramics centres and spanning a timeframe from the sixteenth century to today. A special focus is placed on the personal significance these unique pieces develop for those who own and use them. The point of departure for the show is the friendship between MKG’s founding director, Justus Brinckmann (1843–1915), and the art dealer and collector S. Bing (1838–1905), a relationship that was vital to the development of the collection of Japanese tea ceramics at MKG. Another, modern-day, friendship that plays a role in the exhibition is that between the ceramist Jan Kollwitz (b. 1960) and the author and ceramics collector Christoph Peters (b. 1966). MK&G invited the two "tea people" to help design the presentation – integrating works by Kollwitz and pieces from Peters’ collection. Also participating is the Hamburg section of the Urasenke tea school, which has been practicing chanoyu at MK&G’s Shōseian Tea House for over 40 years. The members have put together ceramics ensembles for different occasions in order to demonstrate how the individual sets of utensils used to prepare the green powdered matcha tea during a tea gathering enter into a silent dialogue with one another and thereby stimulate conversation among host and guests. A small selection of historical and modern pieces offers visitors the opportunity to touch and experience their surfaces and qualities with their own hands.

The exhibition is accompanied by a supporting programme with guided tours and discussions with experts. Exhibtion flyer

Kindly supported by the ZEIT-Stiftung Ebelin und Gerd Bucerius.





Japanese tea ceramics are utensils used to prepare the powdered green matcha tea in a tea ceremony known as chanoyu (literally ‘hot water for tea’). In a tea gathering, the objects enter into a quiet dialogue with each other and stimulate conversations between host and guests. The enthusiasm for this special art form brings tea people (chajin) and ceramics lovers together. The friendship between MK&G’s founding director Justus Brinckmann (1843–1915) and the art dealer S. Bing (1838–1905) decisively influenced the MK&G collection of Japanese tea ceramics. Exchanges about tea ceramics and their production also formed the basis for the friendship between the ceramist Jan Kollwitz (b. 1960) and the writer Christoph Peters (b. 1966). MK&G invited them both, as well as the group from the Urasenke tea school that practices chanoyu in the MK&G’s Shōseian tea house to co-curate the exhibition. The exhibition is part of a project for academic research into MK&G‘s East Asia Collection sponsored by the Zeit-Stiftung Ebelin und Gerd Bucerius.

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