Ces statues dansantes, décrites par Douglas Newton comme " les plus personnelles de tout le golfe de Papouasie " (Newton, 1961, p. 62), forment un corpus éminemment restreint. À la statue Lindner (Sotheby's, Paris, juin 2007, n° 257) s'ajoutent celles de la collection Jolika de John et Marcia Friede (Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, 2005, vol. II, p. 160-161, n° 452 à 455) collectées trois décennies plus tard – en 1966 – par Thomas Schultz-Westrum. L'une d'elles (n° 455) fut déjà comparée, en 1984, lors de l'emblématique exposition Primitivism in 20th Century Art, au MoMA, à la sculpture Apple Monster d'Alexandre Calder (1938). Aucune n'égale cependant à la fois l'ampleur et la qualité sculpturale rencontrées ici, tant dans l'expressivité du geste et la nuance des mouvements imprimés par chaque partie du corps, que dans la prégnance du visage aux traits minimalistes rehaussés d’une polychromie rouge et blanche.
In November 2001, Jan Krugier Gallery, in association with Arte & Ritual, opened an exhibition in New York entitled Traces: Primitive & Modern Expressions, which explored the influence of 'primitive' art on the great 20th century masters of western art. The catalogue begins with a striking juxtaposition - also chosen for the invitation to the vernissage - between the imunu figure from the Frum collection and an untitled painting by Joan Mirò, from 1930.
In the same year the Swiss anthropologist and collector Paul Wirz undertook a research trip to the Gulf of Papua, during which he collected and photographed objects in situ. Amongst the works he collected was this masterpiece, from one of the smallest and most powerful corpuses of Oceanic art, as well as another figure of the same type, now in the Tropenmuseum, Amsterdam (cf. Newton, 1961, p. 63, no. 140). These two works are the first within the corpus to have been collected and documented. In 1934 Paul Wirz published a drawing of the Frum imunu figure, which was described as a 'statue carved, following the natural form, from a short section of a tree; Idol representing a warrior (head hunter). Wapo River. Wirz Collection.' (Abhandlungen und Berichte der Museen für Völkerkunde Tierkunde und zu Dresden, No. XIX, pl. XII, p. 79).
Oneiric manifestations of male or female spirit beings, the dancing silhouette of imunu figures follow the tormented movements of the mangrove roots, which were 'found' by the sculptor after a dream. The spontaneity of the form combines with the important concept which these figures were associated with - according to Wirz (1937, p. 407), amongst the Iwaino people 'imunu' meant the 'vital force' or 'vital source' which was the origin of all individuality. Imunu figures were kept in ceremonial houses and used during initiation rites.
These dancing figures, described by Douglas Newton as 'the most personal of all the Gulf of Papua' (Newton, 1961, p. 62), form a very small corpus. In addition to the Lindner figure (Sotheby's, Paris, June 2007, lot 257) there are three figures in the John and Marcia Friede/Jolika collection (Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, 2005, vol. II, pp. 160-161, nos. 452-455), which were collected by Thomas Schultz-Westrum in 1966, three decades after Wirz collected the Frum imunu. One of the corpus was compared in 1984, during the iconic exhibition Primitivism in 20th Century Art, MoMA, with Apple Monster (1938) by Alexander Calder. None of the other examples however equal the scale or sculptural quality of the Frum imunu, either in the expressiveness of the pose and the nuanced movement which flows through the body, or in the significance of the face with its minimalist features highlighted by red and white pigments.
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