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Yoga: The Art of Transformation | Catalogue

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

All over the world, millions of people—including 20 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.

Yoga: The Art of Transformation, the world's first examination of 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 wellbeing
  • the beauty and profundity of Indian art

Special Features
  • unique among art-exhibition catalogues in that it speaks to the global yoga market
  • the first scholarly book to reveal yoga's histories over 2,000 years through visual culture
  • will be accompanied by multimedia tie-ins, including a website and feature in Yoga Journal

The book features sculptural masterpieces of historical and divine yogis, exquisite Mughal paintings of militant yogis and romantic heroes, illustrated manuscripts of Hindu philosophy and Islamic divination, monumental images of the chakras (energy centers of the body), and 19th-century photography. Written by leading experts in religion, sociology, anthropology, and art history, the book's interdisciplinary perspectives make it an important resource for scholars, yet its text is eminently accessible to general audiences. In addition to seven major essays, the book includes 250- to 1,500-word catalogue entries describing each artwork or related group of artworks (e.g., folios from a single manuscript or works related to a yogic practice, such as meditation). These entries illuminate the works' individual qualities by situating them, for the first time, within intersecting historical, artistic, and yogic networks.

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The Freer|Sackler is closed for renovation and reinstallation. The popular exhibition Turquoise Mountain: Artists Transforming Afghanistan is still on view in the International Gallery. (Enter through the Ripley Center.) Join us for our reopening celebration on October 14–15, 2017.