Smithsonian opens 1st exhibit on art of yoga

Yoga is moving from the studio mat to the museum gallery.

The Smithsonian Institution has organized what curators believe is the first exhibition about the visual history and art of yoga, its origins and evolution over time.

The Smithsonian’s Sackler Gallery will showcase the exhibit, “Yoga: The Art of Transformation,” through January. Later, it will travel to the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco and to the Cleveland Museum of Art.

Curators brought together Indian sculptures, manuscripts and paintings, as well as posters, illustrations, photographs and films to showcase yoga’s history over 2,000 years.

Museum Director Julian Raby said years of research behind the exhibit shed new light on yoga’s meanings and histories.

“It examines for the first time a spectacular, but until now largely ignored, archive,” he said. “That archive is India’s visual culture of extraordinary yoga-related artworks created, as you will see, over some two millennia.”

Guest teachers will lead yoga classes in the museum’s galleries on Wednesdays and Sundays. The museum also will host a symposium for scholars and enthusiasts on yoga’s visual culture.

Curator Debra Diamond said the Smithsonian borrowed some of the greatest masterpieces in Indian art as well as pieces that have never been shown before.

First the exhibit examines the concepts and practices of yoga traditions, including meditation and postures found in Indian art dating back hundreds of years. The first piece is an 11th century sculpture representing a yoga teacher, seated in the lotus posture with legs crossed to signify enlightenment.

Such sculptures were displayed in Hindu temples so people could see the teacher and “understand yoga’s transformative potential,” Diamond said.

Three life-size sculptures of yogini goddesses from Hindu temples illustrate the belief that female powers could be used to allow practitioners to achieve divine powers and enlightenment.

Later galleries examine how the idea of yoga was circulated worldwide, Diamond said. Early American posters depict yogis as magicians or “fakirs” performing acts, along with a 1902 film by Thomas Edison.

Perceptions of yoga helped determine how the tradition developed, and knowing that background is important for how Americans think about yoga today, Diamond said.

“There are so many debates and contestations about what yoga is in America,” she said. “Is it a profound individual embodied system of transformation? Or is it the thing that spawned a $5 billion industry in which yoga is used to sell cars?”

The exhibit is funded in part by the Smithsonian’s first major crowd-funding campaign, which raised $174,000 in six weeks. The Alec Baldwin Foundation also is a notable sponsor. Last year, Baldwin married a yoga instructor.

John Schumacher, a 40-year yoga practitioner and teacher in Washington who advised on the exhibit, said visitors will see there is much more to yoga than postures and breathing.

“It teaches where yoga comes from,” he said. “You see there is a deep, philosophical underpinning to all of these practices and a variety of different philosophies.”

Source: The

Smithsonian Raises $170,000 for Yoga Exhibit Through Crowd-Funding

The Smithsonian exceeded its crowd-funding goal of $125,000 for a yoga exhibit.

The Smithsonian wants to highlight the history of yoga with a special exhibit opening in October at the Freer and Sackler galleries, and it sought ordinary citizens’ help to fund the unique exhibit.

The Smithsonian raised more than $170,000 for the exhibit, receiving money from more than 600 donors, including a $70,000 donation from Whole Foods.

The many forms of yoga have influenced many cultures for thousands of years. In America, it’s moved from edgy to mainstream with millions of practitioners for both mental and physical health. Exhibit Curator Debra Diamond told News4 whole societies have risen and fallen with the power and mystical aspects of yoga.

The exhibit is the first to depend on a unique online fundraising campaign, which began May 29.

“I thought yoga was a natural because community has been part of it for centuries,” Diamond said.

Supporters can learn more, donate and download campaign materials beginning later this month at or by

Alec Baldwin, Wife Hilaria Will Co-Chair Sackler’s Yoga Exhibit Gala

Jack Donaghy is coming to town. Alec Baldwin announced yesterday that he and his wife Hilaria will co-chair the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery’s “Yoga: The Art of Transformation” exhibit gala this October.

The actor made the announcement in a tweet from hit foundation’s account, which is separate from his famously heated and active one. Allison Peck, the Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery’s head of public affairs and marketing, confirmed the news to DCist.

The currently expecting Hilaria Baldwin is a yoga instructor. The second Mrs. Baldwin turned her husband on to yoga, which he credits for his significant weight loss. You can watch Baldwin talk about yoga and do some poses in the video below, which would make his “30 Rock” character cringe.


The exhibit is the Smithsonian’s second attempt at crowdfunding. Two weeks after the campaign’s launch, just over $21,000 of the $125,000 goal has been raised.

Sackler announced this week that Whole Foods will match up to $70,000 of money donated. The gallery is spreading the word about the campaign through social media and so-called yoga messengers. So far, 90 have signed up, according to Peck.

“Yoga: The Art of Transformation” opens Oct. 19.

Help Promote The Smithsonian’s Yoga Art Exhibit

Yoga lovers – Yoga: the Art of Transformation is coming this Fall to the Smithsonian! Read on to learn how you can help promote this unique event ….

From a Smithsonian Press Release:“The Art of Transformation,” on view through Jan. 26, 2014, explores yoga’s philosophies and its goals of transforming body and consciousness, its importance within multiple religious and secular arenas, and the varied roles that yogis played in society, from sages to spies.

To support the exhibition, the museum is launching the Smithsonian’s first major crowdfunding campaign May 29. “Together We’re One” will run through July 1, raising funds for exhibition production, Web content, catalog printing and free public programs for adults and families. Beginning late May, supporters can learn more, donate and download campaign materials—including e-cards and desktop and smartphone backgrounds—at or by contacting

Check out more art from Yoga:The Art of Transformation.