Easter Island Figure Christie’s London, 28 November 1984 Lot 88 Dream Piece #10 Easter Island FigureChristie’s London, 28 November 1984 Lot 88 I can imagine quite a few of you realize why I selected this enigmatic Easter Island figure as my latest Dream Piece. The figure was later purchased by David Attenborough and was the focus of his documentary “The Lost Gods of Easter Island.” If you haven’t seen the film, you must—here is a link that should work: Lost Gods of Easter by David Attenborough. In it, Attenborough’s search for his figure’s provenance takes him on an amazing journey that includes stops at the British Museum, the Russian Museum of Ethnography in St. Petersburg, the State Library in Sydney and of course Easter Island itself. Through detective work, stylistic analysis, document research and pure luck he is able to trace the piece back to Captain Cook’s second voyage’s stop at Easter Island in March of 1774 and the group of figures bought as mementoes by an 18-year-old Tahitian member of the crew named Mahine. What I find remarkable about this figure and its story is that it takes an Oceanic art object and its provenance research as a worthy subject of a nearly hour-long film. With Attenborough’s wonderful narration, storytelling and sense of drama; the routine business of Oceanic art collecting becomes more than interesting, almost heroic… Also of note was the common situation where an art object of an unusual or aberrant style being slighted and ignored by the market—this one sold for $3520 in 1984—nearly a tenth the price of a classic moai kavakava figure that sold at Sotheby’s New York a year prior. What attracts many of us In the field of Oceanic art is the sense of awe and the unknown, the often mind-bending creativity of these folks living in remote villages on far off islands. Yet somehow that same sense of unknown also creates a desire for the safety of the known and classic. I encounter this all too frequently. That if an object does not resemble something known and published in a museum collection then there can be apprehension, some doubt. As a former field collector, I appreciate the unusual object as I have collected literally hundreds of old, authentic pieces that had no known precedent. So, I am keenly aware of the limits of museum collections and the relatively small percentage of items actually published. David Attenborough mentions in the movie that while some might have doubted the figure’s genuineness; he thought it had a “strange, almost hypnotic power” and he bought it. So I applaud the original purchaser of this piece back in 1984 for the modest sum of $3520 and David Attenborough for acquiring it later and celebrating both it and the practice of collecting Oceanic art as something worthy and at times exciting.