2 Feb 2012

Cook Islands artefact a highlight of US art auction

8:57 am on 2 February 2012

The United States auction house Bonhams says there's been strong interest in a rare ceremonial club from the Cook Islands which goes under the hammer in San Francisco next week.

The akatara or Atiu pole-club dating back to the 1700s is expected to fetch up to one hundred thousand US dollars .

An Oceanic art specialist with Bonhams, Frederick Backlar, says the club is nearly two and a half metres high and it is the show's highlight.

"The technical ability of an artist to carve something from a chunk of a tree and knowing where he was going, being able to get the proportions correct. The scalloped edges are so precise, lovely and so even, just the fact that this thing has survived."

Frederick Backlar says such artefacts were often acquired by missionaries, and this item found its way to a prominent shipbuilding family in Maine.

He says oceanic art attracts strong demand from private collectors in the US and Europe.