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History of Yoga

Museum Launches Fundraising for Historic Yoga Exhibit

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Last night kicked off a landmark event for the Smithsonian Institute: the launch of its first crowd-source funding campaign to bring to life “Yoga: The Art of Transformation,” a groundbreaking exhibition of 134 pieces depicting the visual history of yoga spanning 2,000 years.

The exhibit, which officially opens at the Smithsonian’s Asian Art Museums’ Arthur M. Sackler Gallery Oct. 19, is the culmination of three years of research and securing antiquities from 25 museums and private collections throughout India, Europe, and the United States.

With the huge popularity of yoga in the West, the Smithsonian’s curators felt the time was right to explore yoga’s roots. “I’ve had many conversations about this with people in the yoga community reaching out to us,” said Debra Diamond, the associate curator of South and Southeast Asian Art who brought the exhibit together. “My conversations with yoga teachers have really shaped this exhibition.”

Dubbed “Together We Are One,” the fundraising campaign highlights the role of community in yoga. “One of the threads we see [throughout the history of yoga] is the theme of community,” Diamond said. Spiritual seekers have always sought out more advanced seekers to help guide their path, she explained, something that is played out today in thousands yoga studios across the continent and in events like the Yoga Journal Conferences. The exhibit’s organizers hope that that the modern yoga kula will recognize the importance of this event, and help them to offer a full range of programming for the public to fully interact with the exhibit.

Between now and July 1, the museum seeks to raise $125,000 in order to move forward with plans for exhibit-related events including yoga classes, concerts, family activities, and a symposium, along with the printing of an exhibition catalog with essays from scholars including Carl Ernst, David Gordon White and Mark Singleton. Contributions of $10 and up are welcome, and donors will be honored on a digital plaque that will play continuously in the gallery throughout the exhibit.

About 150 people, including yoga teachers and practitioners, press, and collectors and experts of Indian art came out for the kickoff party, and for a sneak peek at pieces such as Yogini, a 10th century granite sculpture from a temple in Southern India, which will be reunited with two of her “sister” goddesses from the same temple. The exhibit also contains paintings, sculptures, photographs, and even movie posters that explore yoga’s philosophies and its role in society through the years, including its parallel stories as an individual path and as a cultural force, both in India and abroad.

“These works of art allow us to trace, often for the first time, yoga’s meanings across the diverse social landscapes of India,” said Diamond. “United for the first time, they not only invite aesthetic wonder, but also unlock the past—opening a portal onto yoga’s surprisingly down-to-earth aspects over 2,000 years.”

On view through Jan. 26,2014, “Yoga: The Art of Transformation” will then travel to the San Francisco Asian Art Museum (Feb. 21–May 25) and the Cleveland Museum of Art (June 22–Sep. 7).

Learn more, download digital artwork, share your support on your social media channels, and make your contribution to “Yoga: The Art of Transformation” here!