Guam River Mask Sotheby’s New York, 2 Dec. 1983 Lot 24 Guam River Mask Sotheby’s New York, 2 Dec. 1983 Lot 24 Lately, I find myself explaining to clients what I call my “field collector’s bias.” Obviously, I feel confident in my expertise and want my clients to trust my judgement with regards to age, authenticity and quality. But beauty and aesthetics are more subjective, more personal. I find that all my years field collecting in Papua New Guinea have affected my sense of beauty for Oceanic art. I find myself drawn to the things that I would have loved to field collect, things that were the most rare and difficult to find—which for me were unusual objects, ancient and archaic. What I call “pre-classic.” Not just pre-contact but objects so early they foreshadow what is to come later. This is the sense I get with this Guam River mask sold nearly 40 years ago at Sotheby’s New York. In the catalog it was listed as Ramu River—which is absolutely correct but I think it could be more precisely attributed to the smaller Guam River tributary. It is of course pre-contact with the total absence of sharp lines from metal tools. The volumes are deep, the edges smooth and rounded—almost appearing melted. Even in this small poor image you can see the layers of pigments and the tiny holes around the perimeter that confirm its early date and traditional use—maybe a large flute mask for a husky bamboo flute? The mask sold in 1983 for $1540 which amounts to about $4600 today—a steal! Back in 1983 I was a freshman at the University of California at Irvine failing calculus but loving everything else. Oceanic art was nowhere near being on my radar. If you own this mask, I congratulate you for your taste, on your field collector’s appreciation of age and the archaic.