'Yoga: The Art of Transformation' Premieres at Smithsonian's Sackler Gallery Today
"Yoga: The Art of Transformation," the first exhibition about the visual history of yoga, opens today, Oct. 19 at the Smithsonian's Arthur M. Sackler Gallery and explores yoga's rich diversity and historical transformations during the past 2,000 years.
On view through Jan. 26, 2014, "The Art of Transformation" examines yoga's fascinating meanings and histories through more than 130 objects from 25 museums and private collections in India, Europe and the U.S. Highlights include three monumental stone yogini goddesses from a 10th-century south Indian temple, reunited for the first time, 10 folios from the first illustrated compilation of asanas (yogic postures) making their U.S. debut, and a Thomas Edison film, Hindoo Fakir (1906), the first movie produced about India.
"This exhibition looks at yoga's ancient roots, and how people have been trying to master body and spirit for millennia," said Julian Raby, The Dame Jillian Sackler Director of the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery and Freer Gallery of Art. "By applying new scholarship to both rarely seen artworks and recognized masterpieces, we're able to shed light on practices that evolved over timefrom yoga's ancient origins to its more modern emergence in India, which set the stage for today's global phenomenon."
A free public festival, "Diwali and the Art of Yoga," Saturday, Oct. 26, will mark both the opening of the exhibition and Diwali, the Indian festival of lights. Visitors can discover exhibition highlights through spotlight tours, play games from across Asia, attempt intricate rangoli (rice powder) drawings and make their own yoga-inspired art in hands-on workshops. Indian classical musician K. Sridhar will demonstrate the yoga of sound, and storyteller Surabhi Shah will share tales of Indian deities. Free yoga classes will be offered throughout, and the day will conclude with a traditional lamp-lighting ceremony and a classical Indian music concert.
In conjunction with "The Art of Transformation," the Freer and Sackler galleries will also host "Yoga and Visual Culture," a free interdisciplinary symposium for scholars and yoga enthusiasts Nov. 2123. Seventeen scholars from a range of disciplines will present cutting-edge research on diverse aspects of yoga's visual culture, organized around such topics as "Yoga and Place" and "Yoga and Print Culture." A full schedule and registration is available at asia.si.edu/events/yoga-symposium/.
Yoga classes in the galleries will be offered through "Art in Context," an interactive 90-minute workshop combining tours of the exhibition with the practice of yoga. Led by a teaching team of a museum docent and guest yoga teachers, the workshops will be held on Wednesdays and Sundays throughout the exhibition, with special sessions offered for ages 50-plus, teens and families. Advance registration is required, and visitors can find a full schedule at asia.si.edu/events/workshops.asp.
The Sackler's annual benefit gala on Thursday, Oct. 17, "Some Enlightened Evening," celebrates the exhibition's opening with luminaries from the worlds of art and yoga. The event is co-chaired by Dame Jillian Sackler, Hilaria and Alec Baldwin and Chandrika Tandon, and honors Nirupama Rao, ambassador of India to the United States, and His Highness Gaj Singh II, Maharaja of Jodhpur-Marwa. The evening concludes with "Transcendance," a vibrant soiree hosted by the Silk Road Society, the museum's young professionals group. For more information and tickets, the public can visit asia.si.edu/events/galas.