Smithsonian to host blockbuster yoga exhibition

“Yoga, the Art of Transformation,” the first-ever such exhibition, will begin in October 2013.

By Deepak Chitnis

WASHINGTON: The Smithsonian Institution will host a blockbuster exhibition on yoga in the U.S. capital next year. Billed as the world’s first-ever such exhibition on the ancient Indian discipline, “Yoga, the Art of Transformation” will begin in October 2013, Smithsonian officials said.

Debra Diamond, an associate curator at Smithsonian’s Freer and Sackler galleries, told Global India Newswire in a recent interview that the exhibition will feature “incredibly beautiful and profound” yoga-related artworks, collected from 25 lenders from India, Europe and the United States. The exhibition will tell the story of yoga “that is sometimes very familiar and sometimes very surprising,” she said.

Diamond said she had been working on the exhibition with about 10 yoga scholars over the past four years. “It’ll be an excellent exhibition,” she added.

Diamond, the curator of the ongoing exhibition “Worlds Within Worlds: Imperial Paintings from India and Iran,” which features 50 exquisite folios and paintings from the court of three Mughal emperors, pointed out that “yoga is so important, so embedded within Indian culture across religions and across periods for two millennia.”

She said, “What we are really looking at is, how can we use objects and art works to better understand the past, how was yoga interwoven to Indian culture, into Hindu tradition, but also Buddhist, Jain and Sufi traditions in India?”

The curator added that the exhibition will showcase the history of yoga “all the way up to the early 20th century, when great teachers in India like Swami Krishnamacharya… and Swami Vivekananda reformulated and reshaped the yoga that we can all practice today.”
At an event featuring Indian Ambassador to the United States Nirupama Rao on Aug 11, Julian Raby, director of the Sackler and Freer galleries, called the “Yoga, the Art of Transformation” a “groundbreaking exhibition” that is “designed to illustrate how resilient Indian culture is.”

Both Smithsonian officials stressed that the exhibition will be the first of its kind. “This will be the world’s first exhibition about yoga’s visual history and will explore how yoga’s meaning is changed over time as the practice became a global phenomenon,” Raby said. Diamond termed it “the world’s first art exhibition about the history and meanings of yoga.”

The yoga exhibition will be the biggest India-related cultural event in the United States since last year’s “Maximum India,” hosted by the Kennedy Center in partnership with the Indian Council for Cultural Relations and the Embassy of India, showcasing a broad range of arts and cultural shows from the country.

In the United States, yoga has become increasingly popular in recent decades. Since the 1980s, yoga schools and programs have sprung up all over the country to cater to the ever-heightening demand. Estimates of the number of people in the United States who practice yoga are sometimes as high as 20 million.
A 2008 study by the Yoga Journal found that yoga was a $6-billion industry in the country. The same study also revealed that another 18.3 million Americans, who didn’t practice yoga, were “very or extremely interested in yoga.” (Global India Newswire)

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