However, the castles never made it to the U.S. “There was a problem with the shipment, and only two were sent,” Ashong says. From 2005 to 2016, the remaining 11 coffins stayed in Ghana. Owing to their size, it was impossible to find a suitable space to store the coffins properly. In 2014, Ashong called Simard, who agreed they should finally ship the coffins—but there was a new problem. “At this point, many of the works were damaged as they had to be stored outside, and being made of wood, they had suffered some rot,” Ashong explained.
Sadly, in June that year, Simard suffered a heart attack and died. “We all felt very, very bad. We couldn’t even eat. We were so sad,” Ashong recalls of receiving the news. Despite working in the coffin industry for 40 years, he adds, it was the first time a business partner had passed away.
Later, Ashong contacted the gallery again. It was then that Jack Shainman first became aware of the coffins. “He called me and I’m like, ‘What coffins?!’” Shainman laughs. He has, he quips, received some concerned emails from friends wondering just why he is putting so many coffins in his galleries.