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First of Its Kind ‘Yoga: The Art of Transformation’ Smithsonian Exhibit Launches Crowdfunding Campaign

in YD News
Krishna Vishvarupa. India, Bilaspur. ca. 1740. Catherine and Ralph Benkaim Collection.

Krishna Vishvarupa. India, Bilaspur. ca. 1740. Catherine and Ralph Benkaim Collection.

The grand museumification of yogic art is on the horizon at Washington DC’s Smithsonian. “Yoga: The Art of Transformation” will open at the Sackler Gallery  this fall (October 19) and will feature 130 objects from 25 museums and private collections in India, Europe and the United States spanning yoga’s history for the past 2,000 years (see slideshow below for more). But they need your help.

Yesterday the Smithsonian launched their first major crowdfunding campaign called “Together We’re One.” The campaign, which will run through July 1, is looking to raise $125,000 in donations to help cover exhibition production, Web content, catalog printing and free public programs for adults and families. Does that mean yoga classes? Why, yes it does. They’re planning to hold yoga classes at the museum along with other yoga exhibit-related events if all goes well.

Wait, doesn’t the museum get federal funding and donations? Yes, but…

Via the museum FAQ:

While federal taxpayer funding covers some of our costs (mostly operating costs, such as keeping the galleries clean and the lights on), private and public support — whether from donors, sponsors, or grants — cover the majority of expenses related to exhibitions and programming. We rely on public and private support to offer our programs and exhibitions free of charge to the public. Private and public support for the Yoga exhibition will help us create videos, publications, and pamphlets; print catalogs (and sell them for a much more reasonable price than through a bookstore!); offer yoga classes during the exhibition, and more.

The cost of putting on a major exhibition like this one is high — but not unusual for the Freer|Sackler. It is simply necessary for keeping the artwork and visitors safe and ensuring a quality experience for both.

In addition, funds raised through “Together we’re one” will allow us to offer larger and more extensive free programs and materials, making the exhibition a richer experience for everyone.

The show will go on whether they raise all the money or not, but we see it as a worthy cause to donate if you have any interest at all in historical yoga art and artifacts. Did we mention admission to the museum is free?

Here’s more info about what to expect at the exhibit, via a press release:

“These works of art allow us to trace, often for the first time, yoga’s meanings across the diverse social landscapes of India,” said [Debra] Diamond, curator of South Asian art at the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery and Freer Gallery of Art. “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.”

Renowned masterpieces of painting and sculpture as well as popular images weave parallel stories of yoga as an individual path and as a cultural force, both in India and abroad. The exhibition features 90 stone and bronze sculptures, richly illustrated manuscripts and lavish court paintings created from the third to the early 19th century CE. Objects such as a 12-foot scroll of the chakra body and the earliest illustrated Yoga Vasishta (an important Hindu philosophical text) illuminate central tenets of yogic practice and philosophy. Other works shed light on yoga’s obscured histories and archetypes, which range from tantric yogini goddesses to militant ascetics and romantic heroes.

Later 19th- and early 20th-century materials—including photographs, missionary postcards, magic posters, medical illustrations, iconographic manuals and early films—chart the vilification of yoga in the colonial period and the subsequent emergence of the modern discipline in India.

Exhibition highlights include an installation that reunites for the first time three monumental stone yogini goddesses from a 10th-century south Indian temple, 10 folios from the first illustrated compilation of asanas (yogic postures) made for a Mughal emperor in 1602 and never before exhibited in the U.S. and a Thomas Edison film, Hindoo Fakir (1906), the first movie produced about India.

Check out the Razoo.com fundraising page, and if you’re really gung ho you can sign up to be a “yoga messenger” to help get the word out and receive some special perks in return.

The “Yoga: The Art of Transformation” exhibit will be on view at the Sackler Gallery from October 19, 2013 to January 26, 2014. Following its Washington, D.C., debut, “The Art of Transformation” will travel to the San Francisco Asian Art Museum (Feb. 21–May 25, 2014) and the Cleveland Museum of Art (June 22–Sep. 7, 2014).

Here’s a taste of what you’ll see:

Krishna Vishvarupa

Krishna Vishvarupa

India, Bilaspur. ca. 1740. Catherine and Ralph Benkaim Collection.

Group of Yogis

Group of Yogis

Colin Murray for Bourne & Shepherd, ca. 1880s Albumen print, 22.2 x 29.2 cm Collection of Gloria Katz and Willard Huyck, 2011.02.02.0004

In the 19th century, photographs circulated exoticized images of
yogis across the globe. The horizontal body markings on the bald
“yogi” seated at right is studio make-up that bears no
relationship to any Hindu tradition; the painted jungle backdrop,
potted plants, and grass mats are equally props assembled to
satisfy a transnational fascination with views of foreign lands and
people.

T. Krishnamacharya Asanas

T. Krishnamacharya Asanas

India, Mysore, 1938 Digital copy of a lost black & white film, 57 min. Sponsored by Maharaja Krishnaraja Wodiyar ELS2013.1.77

Film popularized the dynamic potential of yoga as sequential
movements. One of the earliest films f

Mystery girl: why can’t she be killed?

Mystery girl: why can’t she be killed?

Look Magazine USA, Iowa, Des Moines, September 28, 1937 Private Collection, H x W: 34.1 × 26.6 cm

Koringa, a magicienne of the 1930s, creatively reimagined yogic
referents to enhance the allure of her act: her unruly halo of hair
recalls the wild tresses of medieval yogini goddesses and her chic
bathing suit is styled on the tiger skin garment of a yogi; although
French, she was touted as both the world’s “only female fakir”
and “only female yogi.”

Satcakranirupanicitra

Satcakranirupanicitra

Swami Hamsvarupa Trikutvilas Press, Muzaffarpur, Bihar, India, 1903 Book, 26.2 × 34.5 × 0.4 cm Wellcome Library, London, Asian Collections, 30525689

Encounters with western medicine led to new ways of ‘seeing’
yogic physiognomy, as in this textbook illustration that locates
the chakras and channels of the subtle body on an anatomical
figure.

Shiva Bhairava

Shiva Bhairava

India, Karnataka, Mysore, 13th century Chloritic schist, 116.6 x 49.23 cm The Cleveland Museum of Art: John L. Severance Fund, 1964.369

For tantric yogis, the Hindu deity Bhairava was both transcendent
guru and the god they became through initiation and practice. Like
Bhairava, they haunted cremation grounds, which provided the
ashes they smeared on their bodies and the skull cups that they
carried.

Three Aspects of the Absolute

Three Aspects of the Absolute

Folio 1 from the Nath Charit Bulaki India, Rajasthan, Jodhpur, 1823 (Samvat 1880) Opaque watercolor, gold and tin alloy on paper, 47 x 123 cm Mehrangarh Museum Trust, RJS2399

This monumental manuscript folio depicts creation according to
the Naths, a sectarian order closely associated with hatha yoga.
Creation begins with a formless transcendent Nath (represented by
the shimmering gold square on the right) who emanates into
increasingly more material yogic beings (center and right).

Vishnu Vishvarupa

Vishnu Vishvarupa

India, Rajasthan, Jaipur, ca. 1800-20 Opaque watercolor and gold on paper, 38.5 x 28cm | Victoria and Albert Museum, London, Given by Mrs. Gerald Clark, IS.33-2006

Mortal and divine masters of yoga realize the equivalence of their
bodies with the cosmos.

Yogini on Owl

Yogini on Owl

India, Uttar Pradesh, Kannauj, ca. 1000-1050 CE 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.

India, Bilaspur. ca. 1740. Catherine and Ralph Benkaim Collection.Colin Murray for Bourne & Shepherd, ca. 1880s
Albumen print, 22.2 x 29.2 cm
Collection of Gloria Katz and Willard Huyck, 
2011.02.02.0004India, Mysore, 1938
Digital copy of a lost black & white film, 57 min.
Sponsored by Maharaja Krishnaraja Wodiyar
ELS2013.1.77Look Magazine
USA, Iowa, Des Moines, September 28, 1937
Private Collection, H x W: 34.1 × 26.6 cmSwami Hamsvarupa
Trikutvilas Press, Muzaffarpur, Bihar, India, 1903
Book, 26.2 × 34.5 × 0.4 cm
Wellcome Library, London, Asian Collections, 30525689India, Karnataka, Mysore, 13th century
Chloritic schist, 116.6 x 49.23 cm
The Cleveland Museum of Art: John L. Severance Fund, 
1964.369Folio 1 from the Nath Charit
Bulaki
India, Rajasthan, Jodhpur, 1823 (Samvat 1880)
Opaque watercolor, gold and tin alloy on paper, 47 x 123 cm
Mehrangarh Museum Trust, RJS2399India, Rajasthan, Jaipur, ca. 1800-20
Opaque watercolor and gold on paper, 38.5 x 28cm | 
Victoria and Albert Museum, London, Given by Mrs. Gerald 
Clark, IS.33-2006India, Uttar Pradesh, Kannauj, ca. 1000-1050 CE
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

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