AKA Harry Carpenter Wommatakimmi
117 Career Overall Rank
- 2016 Market Rank
While it is possible that Mani Luki continued to carve Tiwi figures and artefacts up to his death in1980, the only carvings that have appeared for sale in the secondary market were made during a brief period between 1958 and 1972. His sales at auction have been sporadic and it was not until 2016 that his artworks finally transcended the 20 lot lower threshold that enables followers to get an accurate account of his place in the annuls of the Aboriginal art movement. Although a number of very good sales during the period 2006 - 2007 saw him enter the top 100 artists, the lack of entries during the following years has seen him settle at the 117th ranking amongst all artists now that he has sufficient records for his statistics not to be discounted.
Unfortunately, when compared to prices achieved 10 years earlier, Mani Luki's recent records have languished. Four of his top five results were recorded in 2007 or earlier (two as early as 1999). His best recent record was the GBP25,000 ($42,885) achieved for an Untitled Purukapali carving in Sotheby's London sale during 2016. This was an atypical and crude work compared to his finely crafted pieces featuring articulated limbs, but it suited the Sotheby's ethnographic aesthetic. In fact no less than four pieces by the artist entered his top 10 results in 2016. Two of these were particularly disappointing results. First sold to the Luczo Family Collection in the USA by Sotheby's in 2007 for $43,200 (Lot 76), it achieved just $12,200 when offered once more to the market in 2016 in Deutscher & Hackett's October sale (Lot 20). And another purchased in 2009 from Sotheby's for only $7,200 failed to sell in 2015 when offered at Mossgreen with a pre-sale estimate of $10,000-15,000.
Another work gives a far better indication of the value of Mani Luki's works even though it last appeared at auction more than a decade ago. This particularly nice example of the artist's finest carving failed to sell at Lawson Menzies in 2005 when carrying a pre-sale estimate of $20,000-25,000 (Lot 118). However two years later, carrying the same estimate, it achieved $23,213 when offered once more by Joel Fine Art (Lot 43). In my opinion, this is the right level at which a work by this artist should be offered. His works are rare and unique in their execution. Mani Luki was a senior elder when he began carving his signature works and he created a small number of them. Anyone who loves Tiwi people and their culture would be delighted to be able to live with one of these very special pieces.
Profile author: Sophie Pierce
Art Gallery of Western Australia, Perth.
Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory, Darwin.
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne.
1990 - Keepers of the Secrets, Aboriginal Art from Arnhemland, Art Gallery of Western Australia, Perth.
1988 - Aboriginal art of the Top End, c.1935-Early 1970s, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne [work attributed].
1974 - Australian Aboriginal Art from the Louis A. Allen Collection, M. H. de Young Memorial Museum, California Palace of the Legion of Honour.
1972 - Australian Aboriginal Art, Field Museum of Natural History, Chicago.
1969 - Australian Aboriginal Art - The Louis A. Allen Collection, R. H. Lowie Museum of Anthropology, University of California, Berkeley.
Allen, L., 1975, Time Before Morning: Art and Myth of the Australian Aborigines, Thomas Crowell Company, New York.
Caruana, W., 1993, Aboriginal Art, Thames and Hudson, London. (C) ; Norton, F., 1975, Aboriginal Art, Western Australian Art Gallery Board with the assistance of the Aboriginal Arts Board of the Australia Council.
O'Ferrall, M., 1990, Keepers of the Secrets, Aboriginal Art from Arnhemland in the Collection of the Art Gallery of Western Australia, Art Gallery of Western Australia, Perth. (C)
Discovery Media. current. NATSIVAD. Melbourne. Documentation Pty Ltd.
Barnes, Kathy. 1999. Kiripapurajuwi = skills of our hands : good craftsmen and Tiwi art. Darwin. Kathy Barnes.
Isaacs, J. 2012. TIWI: Art History Culture. Melbourne. The Miegunyah Press.
Bima, Pukumani Poles, Goanna
Carved Wooden Artifacts, Sculpture