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The Smithsonian’s history of yoga exhibit faces a contemporary concern

Yoga Art of Transformation Smithsonian Museum
An 11th-century piece featured in the upcoming Smithsonian exhibit. (“Yogini,” India, from the San Antonio Museum of Art)

This fall, the Smithsonian’s Arthur M. Sackler Gallery will display masterpieces of Indian sculpture and paintings in “Yoga: The Art of Transformation,” making it the first ever large-scale exhibit to display a yoga-centric visual archive, with pieces that date as far back as 1000 A.C.E.

“Many people around the world practice yoga for health or spiritual centering, but many fewer know its depth and diversity,” says Debra Diamond, curator of South Asian Art at the Smithsonian’s Sackler Gallery. “Artworks and images make this history visible, palpable, and accessible.”

From October 19 through January 26, you’ll be able to peruse pieces that explore yoga’s primary tenets. Namely, yoga’s ability to transform body and consciousness, as well as its profound philosophical foundations.

But, while the exhibit addresses the history of yogic transcendence, it has contemporary concerns. “Yoga: The Art of Transformation” is in fundraising mode, as the government only funds a third of the Smithsonian’s bottom line, explains curator Diamond. The rest of its funds come from corporations and supporters. (Like you?)

“We really want to have public programs that will make the exhibition even more meaningful,” Diamond says. “All of our public programs are free, so we have to raise the money in advance.” (Some of the potential programming includes yoga classes within the exhibit, like the kind at MoMA and the Brooklyn Museum of Art.)

The museum’s been working toward the goal of $125,000 since May 29, and its efforts must conclude on July 1, regardless of whether the amount was reached. A selling point in favor of the museum? Donors to this cause can count on some good karma. —Jamie McKillop

For more information or to donate to the “Yoga: Art of Transformation” exhibit, visit