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article image'Yoga: The Art of Transformation' at Cleveland Museum of Art

By Sravanth Verma     Jul 11, 2014 in Entertainment
Cleveland - The Cleveland Museum of Art (CMA) is hosting "Yoga: The Art of Transformation,” an art exhibition featuring the rich visual history of yoga in India.
The exhibition runs till September 7 in The Kelvin and Eleanor Smith Foundation Exhibition Hall at the Cleveland Museum of Art, 11150 East Blvd. Debra Diamond, associate curator of South and Southeast Asian art at The Smithsonian’s Museums of Asian Art says, "There hasn’t really been work on yoga in the visual arts. It is surprising, and I can’t tell you the reason.”
The exhibition brings together more than 130 pieces ranging from the second century through 1941, from 25 museums and private collections from India, Europe and the United States. Many of them come from CMA’s Indian and Southeast Asian Collection. Visitors can learn about Indian culture as well as about the multifaceted nature of the yogic science.
Diamond began to work toward the exhibition in 1990s, with an interdisciplinary team of experts on religion, history, Sanskrit, Islam, philology, India and art history. “For anyone who practices yoga — pretty much any kind of yoga today — anywhere in the world, there are things in this exhibition that will be familiar and there will be things that are totally unfamiliar,” Diamond says. “Yoga is much more than any of us knew. I mean, the more I worked on this project, the less I knew about yoga and the larger it got.”
"I think people like me, art historians, we were looking for images that reflected what we saw today," says Diamond, referring to the overwhelming association between asanas and yoga in the western part of the world. “We gradually learned — as these other scholars were working in these other fields — yoga was quite complex and many different things at different times.”
Key art pieces at the exhibition include "Shiva Bhairava" from the 1200s, "Hanuman as a yogi" from the early 1800s, and "Fasting Buddha" from the 700s. Also part of the exhibition are scrolls from the Vishnu Puran, 19th century photographs and films — including "Hindoo Fakir" by Thomas Edison, the first film (1906) on an Indian subject ever produced — and 15-foot scrolls depicting the chakras — the energy centers where the channels carrying kundalini or psychic energy are said to converge. “This exhibition really could not have happened without works of art from the Cleveland Museum of Art,” says Sonya Rhie Quintanilla, George P. Bickford Curator of Indian and Southeast Asian Art at CMA. “The Cleveland pieces are some of the major linchpins of the exhibition, and so we get to see our own pieces out in a new context and a new light.”
The museum's page on the art exhibit states that many millions of people around the world, including 16 million in the United States, practice yoga. Yoga has its origins in India, where it is considered that Shiva is the first yogi and guru. While both practitioners and non-practitioners may be aware of the spiritual and health benefits of yoga, many of them may not be aware of yoga’s rich visual history.
As the museum's page states, "The world’s first exhibition about yoga’s visual history, will explore yoga’s meanings and transformations over time, including its entry into the global arena; yoga’s goals of spiritual enlightenment, worldly power and health and well-being; and the beauty and profundity of Indian art."
The exhibition is ticketed. The rates are Adults: $15; Seniors: $13; Students (with valid ID): $13; Children 6–18: $7; Children 5 and under: Free; CMA members: Free; Member guests: $7.
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