28 June 2019 to 23 February 2020
Among Friends
Japanese Tea Ceramics

Japanese tea ceramics represent art that is meant to be used. Outstanding pieces are even given names by their makers, or more often by their owners. The ritualized handling of these vessels creates a very personal bond between so-called tea people (chajin) and their objects. And the enthusiasm for this very special art form brings ceramic lovers together, for instance in the regular practice of the tea ceremony (chanoyu, which literally means “hot water for tea”). In the exhibition Among Friends: Japanese Tea Ceramics, the Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg (MKG) is focusing on the personal relationships that evolve around these unique ceramics. Featured are some 100 outstanding ceramic objects from MKG’s East Asian Collection, including tea bowls, vases, fresh water jars and other tea utensils. MKG’s founding director Justus Brinckmann (1843–1915) acquired over 50 objects from the art dealer and collector Samuel Bing (1838–1905) during his term at the museum (1877–1915), the two men maintaining close contact due to their shared passion for Japanese art. Also on view is a group of objects in the style of the famous Japanese ceramist Ogata Kenzan (1663–1743), a style Brinckmann particularly admired; he collected many examples and was the first to conduct scholarly research on them. It was Brinckmann who brought Japonism to Germany, promoting its marketing and sparking a fascination that continues to this day. A contemporary perspective on the collection of Japanese tea ceramics at MKG will be offered by ceramist Jan Kollwitz and writer Christoph Peters. MKG has invited these two friends and experts on Japanese tea ceramics to help design the presentation – also integrating their own works. Among Friends will present a selection from the cohort of some 700 objects in the category of Japanese tea ceramics that have now been researched and catalogued in a project sponsored by the ZEIT-Stiftung Ebelin und Gerd Bucerius.

Ill.: Tea utensils, kettle, tea bowl with bamboo broom, tea tin and teaspoon for the tea ceremony, Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg, photo: Jörg Arend