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Past Exhibitions

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Claire Partington: Taking Tea

Dec 7 2018 – Nov 15 2020

Seattle Art Museum

Fourth Floor Galleries

This installation is closed until further notice to help ensure safe physical distancing within the museum.

Get a new perspective on SAM’s popular Porcelain Room through the site-specific work of contemporary British ceramic artist Claire Partington. Taking Tea features an installation referencing Baroque painting and European porcelain factories, as well as a panel mounted with fragments from 17th- and 18th-century shipwrecks. The Porcelain Room is a SAM favorite for visitors with more than 1,000 European and Asian porcelain pieces from SAM's collection grouped to evoke porcelain as a treasured commodity between the East and the West.

Claire Partington reappraises the narrative histories of the porcelain objects. Her figures engaged in the act of “taking tea” give a human face to the European craze for Chinese porcelain on display in the Porcelain Room. Partington’s installation suggests the often unintentional consequences of the porcelain trade during the expansion of international shipping routes. The figures in the installation are steeped in the rarified luxury and high-end fashion these items once conveyed, but they also expose the degrading aspects of trade—the reality of precarious ocean voyages and human exploitation.

Support for this installation was made possible by
C. E. Stuart Charitable Trust
Guendolen Carkeek Plestcheeff Endowment for the Decorative Arts
Klepser Fund
ArtsFund/Guendolen Carkeek Plestcheeff Fund for the Decorative and Design Arts
The Estate of Anne Bowden

Photo: Natali Wiseman

Seattle Art Museum respectfully acknowledges that we are on Indigenous land, the traditional territories of the Coast Salish people. We honor our ongoing connection to these communities past, present, and future.

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