All over the world, millions of people—including sixteen million Americans—practice yoga for health benefits and to find spiritual calm. Practitioners and non-practitioners alike are aware of yoga’s origins in India. But very few know of yoga’s rich visual history, which reveals its profound philosophical underpinnings, its goals of transforming both body and consciousness, the diverse social roles yogic practitioners have played, and its transformations over time and across communities.
The Cleveland Museum of Art will present Yoga: The Art of Transformation, 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.
Works will include sculptural masterpieces of historical and divine yogis, exquisite Mughal paintings of militant yogis and romantic heroes, Islamic divination texts, fifteen-foot scrolls depicting the chakras (energy centers of the body), nineteenth-century photography and early films. Noteworthy objects include an installation that reunites for the first time three monumental stone yoginis from a tenth-century Chola temple; ten folios from the first illustrated compilation of asanas (yogic postures) from 1602, never before exhibited in the United States; and Hindoo Fakir by Thomas Edison, the first film on an Indian subject ever produced (1906).