Rarotonga Staff God - Sotheby’s London, Paris, 24 June 1992, lot 53 Dream Piece #14 Rarotonga Staff GodSotheby’s London, Paris, 24 June 1992, lot 53 I know it’s shameful, but it has taken me 20 years to fully appreciate the rarity and importance of Polynesian figurative art. Back in the day when my focus was almost entirely on New Guinea, I would have looked at this Rarotonga staff god coolly and detached and said, ‘yeah, that is very beautiful.’ Now with a couple decades of experience, I look at this piece with fire in my belly and lust in my eye--tempered only by a taint of despair knowing such a figure, like the supermodel Cindy Crawford of my youth, is probably forever out of reach. Nonetheless, let’s take a close look at the gorgeous god before us. The highly stylized wedge-shaped head tilts slightly forward with a calm, serene demeanor. The precise geometric arcs and lines of the face have a masterly precision about them as if intentionally elevating and perfecting nature. The aesthetic restraint and perfection is abandoned below the face as the alternating smaller male and female figures seem complex, busy and inexorably connected to one another--which makes sense as they are said to represent direct ancestors of the original owner of the Atua staff god. Polynesian god figures are extremely rare. While one sees a steady stream of Easter Island moai kavakava at auction—that range from the dubious authentic to true masterpieces--such a Rarotonga staff god as the present example might come up once in your collecting life. Back in June of 1992 this piece sold for 220,000 British pounds which was roughly $389,000 at the time or in today’s dollars about $820,000—so real money and well out of reach of most mortals. Today, if this figure happened to show up on the market, I would have to think it would fetch in excess of $5 million—and as I say this, I can almost see my colleagues at Christie’s and Sotheby’s shaking their heads at the naïve modesty of my estimate.