| exhibitions

Review Article by Gary Gach | Introduction, by Debra Diamond

Asian Art Museum February 21 – May 25, 2014

The Asian Art Museum presents Yoga: The Art of Transformation, the first major art exhibition to explore yoga and its historical transformation over the past 2,500 years through more than 130 rare and compelling artworks. The exhibition debuted in the Sackler Gallery of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington DC, where it was on view from October 19, 2013 – January 26, 2014.

All over the world, millions of people practice yoga to find spiritual insight and improved health. Many people are aware of yoga's origins in India, but few outside of advanced practitioner circles recognize yoga's profound philosophical underpinnings, its presence within Jain, Buddhist, Hindu and Sufi religious traditions, or the surprisingly various social roles played by yogic practitioners over centuries. This exhibition shows yoga’s rich diversity and rising appeal from its early days to its emergence on the global stage.

Borrowing from 25 museums and private collections in India, Europe and the U.S., the artworks on view date from the 2nd to the 20th centuries, with a majority from the 8th to 18th centuries. Throughout the exhibition, stunning examples of sculpture and painting illuminate yoga's key concepts as well as its obscured histories. Early photographs, books and films show yogis not only as peaceful practitioners, but also satirized as sly imposters. Artworks and audio guides also reveal yoga’s transformation in 20th-century India and the U.S. as an inclusive practice open to all. The exhibition’s highlights include an installation that reunites three stone yoginis from a 10th century South Indian temple; 10 pages from the first illustrated book of yogic postures (asanas) from around 1600; and a film by Thomas Edison, Hindoo Fakir (1902), the first American movie ever produced about India.

After closing in San Francisco on May 25, the show moves to the Cleveland Museum of Art (June 22, 2014–Sep. 7, 2014).

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all text & images © Asian Art Museum

Review Article by Gary Gach | exhibitions