28 June 2019 until 1 March 2020
Among Friends
Japanese Tea Ceramics

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 Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg (MKG) presented 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 was placed on the personal significance these unique pieces develop for those who own and use them. The point of departure for the show was 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). MKG invited the two “tea people” to help design the presentation – integrating works by Kollwitz and pieces from Peters’ collection. Also participating was the Hamburg section of the Urasenke tea school, which has been practicing chanoyu at MKG’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 offered visitors the opportunity to touch and experience their surfaces and qualities with their own hands.

Kindly supported by the Zeit Foundation.

The exhibition is accompanied by a supporting programme with guided tours and discussions with experts. You can find the complete programme in the exhibition flyer.

Image: Utensils for preparing light tea, tea ensemble, Christoph Peters Collection, Christoph Peters, Photo: MKG