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In this video, Debra Diamond of the Freer | Sackler Gallery talks about the upcoming Smithsonian Exhibition, “Yoga: The Art of Transformation,” which traces the visual history of yoga.
The exhibition is scheduled to open at the Freer | Sackler Gallery on October 19th. Unfortunately the gallery and all of its events are currently closed during the federal government shutdown and the opening may be postponed indefinitely if the government shutdown continues. The exhibit will also travel to San Francisco and Cleveland in 2014. For the time being, Yoga Alliance members can enjoy Debra's engaging and informative presentation.
"Yoga: The Art of Transformation" is the first exhibition of its kind. The exhibit traces the visual history of yoga, using objects never shown in the U.S. before, such as folios from the first illustrated compilation of asanas. It focuses on how the practice of yoga has transformed over the past 2,000 years into a widely celebrated regimen for health, balance and spirituality.
Debra introduced the exhibition by describing that most knowledge of yoga comes from Sanskrit texts, sectarian traditions and individuals’ experiences while practicing. "Yoga: The Art of Transformation" pulls from visual culture, a relatively untapped resource, to shed light on yoga’s history. Spanning the third century through the 1940s, the exhibition uses sculptures, court paintings and videos to explore various manifestations of yoga throughout history in both the East and West. Yoga’s history is too diverse and nuanced to fit neatly into a definitive, all-inclusive single narrative. Instead of featuring “one story,” as Debra originally intended, the exhibition ended up reflecting “more like 100 stories,” teased out from yoga’s rich visual culture.
Yogini, India, Uttar Pradesh, Kannauj, ca. 1000–1050
Sandstone, 86.4 x 43.8 x 24.8 cm
San Antonio Museum of Art, purchased with the John and Karen McFarlin Fund and Asian Art Challenge Fund, 90.92
Seated with her legs audaciously akimbo on an owl vehicle, this flying yogini has the weapons and bared teeth of a fierce deity and the voluptuous body of a benign goddess. Magnificently carved, it is the only surviving trace of a temple that would have housed 42, 64, 81 or 108 yoginis of similar size.