Bonhams has announced that its second annual Art of the South Seas auction, which will be held on February 10 in California, will be highlighted by an important and rare pole club from the South Pacific's Cook Islands.
The club, or akatara, is the cover lot of the auction and is expected to sell in the region of $100,000-150,000. It was likely made for the chiefs of tribes living on Rarotonga, the most populous of the Cook Islands.
The spectacular club is carved from the heart of the toa (ironwood) tree and is said to have been considered a great prestige object containing the mana, or spiritual power, of its creator and owner. Standing at over eight feet high, the example at auction is particularly valued for its rarely seen double-scalloped blade design, as well as a collar featuring eight eye motifs.
Of all the clubs found on the Cook Islands, and Polynesia in general, the akatara is considered one of the most elegant. According to Bonhams, the aesthetics of weaponry in Polynesia was unrivalled by any other nation before the onset of Christianity.
Tribal art and weaponry is a well developed collecting area, with dedicated sales held by many of the major auction houses. In May 2012, the collection of prominent art dealer Ernst Beyeler was offered at Christie's, seeing outstanding results.
One of the most memorable recent sales came on January 10, when a set of seven Fijian cannibal forks sold with an impressive increase on estimate. Paul Fraser Collectibles conducted an interview with Bonhams' specialist in tribal art and antiquities, Phillip Keith, to discover more about the market.