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Fowler Museum at UCLA

The Art of Tea

The Art of Tea

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From: Fowler Museum at UCLA
Limited Edition: 25
Exhibition: Steeped in History: The Art of Tea
Material: Printed 2-ply vinyl
Dimensions: 35" x 96" (88cm x 243cm)

Hanging Hardware Included


An 18th-century silver teapot shines on banners that promoted the exhibition Steeped in History: The Art of Tea at the Fowler Museum at UCLA. Featured on 25 banners from the exhibition, the teapot seems symbolic of the traditions and elegance of English high tea. The Fowler exhibition looked at the role tea and tea drinking played on the world scene throughout history from Asia to the West, in forms and materials, in traditions and ceremonies.


The exhibition Steeped in History: The Art of Tea captured the role and importance of tea throughout human history. Originating in China nearly 5000 years ago, tea is one of the most ubiquitous and complex of human inventions. But tea has also been the object of imperialist and colonialist incursions, inspired art and design, and now has become one of the most democratized of global drinks.

The vast array of objects in this exhibition give a sense of tea’s far-reaching influence. Where tea is concerned, form has long followed function in China, guiding the design of porcelains and ceramics. With its introduction in Japan during the 9th century, tea became a backbone of cultural importance to Japanese life. Tea was also big business, with profound political and economic influence. The East India Company shaped the agriculture and economy in Darjeeling, India around mass tea production to satisfy British demand. Taxes on tea were the object of scorn in the colonies just prior to the American Revolutionary War.

Perhaps most remarkable is tea’s current ability to be all things to all people: from Chinese medicinal elixir to rarified gourmet luxury to mass-market iced beverage.

These banners were designed to span a street-pole, so hanging two banners side-by-side completes the entire image of the teakettle. The teakettle depicted is an example of the refined artistry of 18th-century English silversmiths, and is attributed to Richard Gurney and Thomas Cooke II. Made of silver, the ornately wrought teakettle was intended for display, meant to keep water hot at the tea table for use in teapots. It combines a simple, spherical body with a organic scrolling handle.

The front of the banner depicts a combination of cursive and block lettering of the words “History the Art of Tea”. The teakettle’s fluted spout arcs across the lower half of the banner. “Fowler Museum at UCLA” appears below the spout and the exhibition sponsor’s logo appears at the bottom of the banner. The back of the banner depicts the body and the handle of the silver teakettle. The words “Steeped in” are at top along with the exhibition dates “Aug 16—Nov 29, 2009” appearing at the bottom of the banner.


These banners were displayed around Los Angeles from August 16 to November 29, 2009 to promote the exhibition Steeped in History: The Art of Tea at the Fowler Museum at UCLA.

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