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Lecture—Objects of Addiction: Opium, Empire, and the Chinese Art Trade

A color print shows a flowering poppy plant with an insect hovering above; Chinese writing and a seal are to the right.
Poppies and Insect, from The Mustard Seed Garden Manual of Painting (Jieziyuan Huapu), Vol. 1, China, Qing dynasty, late 18th century (1782 edition). Page from a woodblock-printed book; ink and color on paper. Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Gift of the Friends of Arthur B. Duel, 1933.4.1246.


Harvard Art Museums, Menschel Hall
32 Quincy Street, Cambridge, MA, Enter at Broadway for evening programs

This event was recorded. Please view the lecture on our Vimeo or Youtube channels.

This event does not require registration; see further details below.

Join associate curator Sarah Laursen for a lecture on opium and Chinese art—two influential commodities traded in China, the British Empire, and Massachusetts between the 18th and early 20th centuries.

This lecture is offered in conjunction with the exhibition Objects of Addiction: Opium, Empire, and the Chinese Art Trade (September 15, 2023–January 14, 2024), which explores the entwined histories of the opium trade and the Chinese art market between the late 18th and early 20th centuries. These two commodities—acquired through both legal and illicit means—had profound effects on the global economy, public health, immigration law, education, and the arts that are reverberating still today.

Sarah Laursen, Alan J. Dworsky Associate Curator of Chinese Art

Following the lecture, guests are invited to visit the exhibition on Level 3.

Free admission, but seating is limited and available on a first-come, first-served basis.

The lecture will take place in Menschel Hall, Lower Level. Doors will open for seating at 5:30pm.

Limited complimentary parking is available in the Broadway Garage, 7 Felton Street, Cambridge.

This lecture will be recorded and made available for online viewing; check back shortly after the event for the link to view.

The Harvard Art Museums are now offering free admission every day, Tuesday through Sunday. Please see the museum visit page to learn about our general policies for visiting the museums.

This program is presented in partnership with the Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies. Support for Objects of Addiction: Opium, Empire, and the Chinese Art Trade is provided by the Alexander S., Robert L., and Bruce A. Beal Exhibition Fund; the Robert H. Ellsworth Bequest to the Harvard Art Museums; the Harvard Art Museums’ Leopold (Harvard M.B.A. ’64) and Jane Swergold Asian Art Exhibitions and Publications Fund and an additional gift from Leopold and Jane Swergold; the José Soriano Fund; the Anthony and Celeste Meier Exhibitions Fund; the Gurel Student Exhibition Fund; the Asian Art Discretionary Fund; the Chinese Art Discretionary Fund; and the Rabb Family Exhibitions Fund. Related programming is supported by the M. Victor Leventritt Lecture Series Endowment Fund. Additional support for this project is provided by the Dunhuang Foundation.

The Harvard Art Museums are committed to accessibility for all visitors. For anyone requiring accessibility accommodations for our programs, please contact us at at least 48 hours in advance.