Yangoru Boiken Ancestral Spirit Figure, Sotheby’s New York, 27 June 1985, lot 121 Dream Piece #12 Yangoru Boiken Ancestral Spirit FigureSotheby’s New York27 June 1985, lot 121 This Yangoru Boiken figure has always been one of my all-time favorite pieces of Oceanic art. It has the quiet lethal intensity of an ICBM sitting in its silo yet the beauty and color of a superb work of art. The classic almond-shaped eyes are intentionally closed as its gaze is too powerful for mere mortals. The mouth is open, deep and dark with life. The teeth are a reminder of the latent menace of this ancestral spirit. The sculpture is virtually all head floating above a body distilled down to a couple totemic bird beaks above a tiny, simplified torso. It was carved generations before contact with perfect rounded volumes and layers of magical pigments. It was the cover piece for Sotheby’s New York, 10 November 1987 catalog. There was no provenance given, nor would I expect it. Yangoru Boiken was not an area reached by the German colonial ethnographic collectors nor really anyone else until the 1960s. Thus, a masterpiece such as this bypassed the normal route that generates a noteworthy provenance. But that soon changed as inot long after the sale it entered into the significant collection formed by the Masco Corporation and traversed the United States stopping at the Kimbell Art Museum, Honolulu Academy of Arts, Detroit Institute of Arts and the North Carolina Museum of Art as part of the “Island Ancestors: Oceanic Art from the Masco Collection” exhibition in the mid 1990s. By 2001 the Masco Collection was being dispersed and a number of objects started showing up at auction. But not this one. It was part of a core group of masterpieces bought by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art in 2009 and that is where I was able to finally see it in person. It is no longer on permanent display but sleeps quietly in storage; dormant but whose power I can assure you remains undiminished. Back in November of 1987 the figure sold for $34,100. At the time I was a freshly minted bridge officer from California Maritime Academy and had just finished my first 90-day tour on a ship plying between Alaska and San Francisco. So, I actually just might have had enough money to bid on this beauty—but this was seven years before my first trip to Papua New Guinea that would end up changing the trajectory of my life. Now at LACMA the figure will never again be on the market, but I’m content knowing it resides less than 30 miles from my home.