“Yoga: The Art of Transformation” Premieres Oct. 19 at the Smithsonian’s Sackler Gallery

Public Programs Celebrate the First Exhibition on the Art of Yoga, Including Opening Festival Oct. 26 and Yoga Classes in the Galleries
September 23, 2013
News Release

“Yoga: The Art of Transformation,” the first exhibi¬tion about the visual history of yoga, opens 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 time—from 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. 21–23. 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 at asia.si.edu/events/workshops.asp.

These programs are made possible in part due to the Smithsonian’s first major crowdfunding campaign, “Together We’re One.” Launched in May 2013, the campaign raised more than $174,000 in six weeks to support public programs, yoga classes in the galleries and an exhibition catalog, as well as the behind-the-scenes aspects of the exhibition. Campaign donors and exhibition ambassadors, called “Yoga Messengers,” are invited to be special guests during the Oct. 26 “Art of Yoga” festival, and will be featured in exhibition signage.

The Sackler’s annual benefit gala 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 here.

Following its Washington debut, “The Art of Transformation” will travel to the San Francisco Asian Art Museum (Feb. 21, 2014–May 25, 2014) and the Cleveland Museum of Art (June 22, 2014–Sep. 7, 2014).

Support for the exhibition is provided by the Friends of the Freer|Sackler, Whole Foods Market, Art Mentor Foundation Lucerne, the Alec Baldwin Foundation, the Ebrahimi Family Foundation, IndiaTourism, Catherine Glynn Benkaim, media partner Yoga Journal and “Together We’re One” donors.

The Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, located at 1050 Independence Avenue S.W., and the adjacent Freer Gallery of Art, located at 12th Street and Independence Avenue S.W., are on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. Hours are 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. every day (closed Dec. 25), and admission is free. The galleries are located near the Smithsonian Metrorail station on the Blue and Orange lines. For more information about the Freer and Sackler galleries and their exhibitions, programs and other public events, visit www.asia.si.edu. For general Smithsonian information, call (202) 633-1000.

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