Art Of Transformation


Yogini, first half of the 11th century, India, Uttar Pradesh, Kannauj, San Antonio Museum of Art, purchased with the John and Karen McFarlin Fund & Asian Art Challenge Fund.

“Yoga: The Art of Transformation” opens tomorrow at the Smithsonian’s Arthur M. Sackler Gallery and runs through 26 January, 2014. Through Indian masterpieces, this exhibition explores yoga’s goals, its Hindu, as well as Buddhist, Jain, and Sufi manifestations, its means of transforming body and consciousness, and its profound philosophical foundations. This is the first exhibition to study yoga as a visual metaphor spanning centuries of spiritual roots, exploring the roles yogis and yoginis played in Indian society over two thousand years, to its current status as a global exercise technique.


Three Aspects of the Absolute, folio 1 from the Nath Charit, By Bulaki, 1823. India, Rajasthan, Jodhpur, Mehrangarh Museum Trust.

Organized by Debra Diamond, associate curator of South and Southeast Asian art, Yoga: The Art of Transformation includes more than 120 works, from the 3rd century to the early 20th century, that illuminate yoga’s central tenets as well as its obscured histories. Temple sculptures, devotional icons, illustrated manuscripts, court paintings, photographs, books, and films are on view. Borrowed from 25 museums and private collections in India, Europe, and the United States, its highlights include an installation that reunites for the first time three monumental stone yogini goddesses from a 10th-century Chola temple, 10 folios from the first illustrated compilation of asanas (yogic postures) -which was made for a Mughal emperor in 1602 and has never been exhibited in the United States, a Thomas Edison film, Hindoo Fakir (1906) – the first movie ever produced about India, and a 1938 film of T. Krishnamacharya, the grandfather of modern yoga.


With yoga studios popular in cities throughout the United States, the Smithsonian decided to tap into the discipline’s popularity in a practical way. The museum collaborated with Yoga Journal and the Yoga Alliance to launch its Together We’re One campaign in May, raising more than $175,000 -well over its $125,000 goal- on the crowdfunding website Razoo. That money supplements costs for shipping, publications, and public programming (including yoga classes) during the course of the show. Hopefully bringing a degree of spiritual awareness to Washington, D.C.