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Manuel Neri (American, b.1930)


Also known as:  John Manuel Neri

Birth Place: Sanger, CA


Who was sculptor Manuel Neri?

Manuel Neri is one of the best known American sculptors of the 20th century. His figures are known for their emotionally evocative stances and focus on the “inner state” of his muse. This is frequently Julia Klimenko, Neri’s preferred model for the last forty years. He has won a Guggenheim Fellowship, multiple NEA grants, awards from the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters, and has been exhibited all over the world. 

Neri is one of the founding members of the Bay Area Figurative Movement as well as the Funk art community. Perhaps best known as a member of the art faculty at UC Davis (from 1965 - 1999), he also taught at UC Berkeley and the California School of Fine arts for brief stints. He is universally renowned and considered one of our greatest living sculptors. 

What kind of art does Manuel Neri make?

Manuel Neri is best known for his sculptures. Typically made from plaster, marble, bronze, or clay, they are almost always figurative and are known for their emotionally charged content. Neri is also a talented painter and many of his oil on canvas pieces share that same emotional quality. Since the 1970s, Neri has often used marble for his work -- namely torsos, heads, and other smaller pieces. His use of paint on his pieces makes them uniquely emotive, and Neri uses this technique to accentuate forms, gestures, and the emotion of the piece. His work with the Six Gallery is now legendary, including helping to organize the “6 Poets at 6 Gallery” event which became the first-ever time that Allen Ginsberg gave a public reading of Howl. 

How did sculptor Manuel Neri get started?

Neri was born to Mexican immigrant parents in Sanger, California, a small community located outside of Fresno. There isn’t much known about Neri’s early life until he moved to San Francisco in 1950 to study electrical engineering at San Francisco City College. While there, he enrolled in a ceramics class taught by the great Peter Voulkos. This class inspired Neri to continue with art, eventually enrolling in the California College of Arts and Crafts in Oakland. While there, he studied under legendary artists like Richard Diebenkorn and Frank Lobdell. Even then, Neri worked in his trademark style, life-sized sculptures made of plaster and painted to suit his needs. He founded the Six Gallery in San Francisco, and from then on made a name as one of the Bay Area’s preeminent artists. 

How much are Manuel Neri sculptures worth?

Manuel Neri sculptures are typically worth somewhere in the $50,000 - $200,000 range. This can depend on a number of different factors, including the material used and the subject. The highest price ever paid at auction for a Neri sculpture was $289,000 for Untitled (1983) on November 11th, 2007. This piece is a trademark Neri, a faceless, armless, figurative piece that is made of marble. Neri’s works are highly sought after, the prospective collector would be wise to snatch one up when and if it becomes available. 

Where to buy Manuel Neri sculptures for sale?

See works for sale below. Why buy from Heritage? Art buyers feel confident because our experts know the market and put careful valuations on artwork for sale. We make the bidding process easier to help you expand your art collection.

How to value Manuel Neri sculptures?

The best way to value art is to compare past auction prices for similar works. View past sale prices below. When you’re ready to sell, contact Heritage Auctions to request an auction estimate of the likely selling price at auction. If you need a formal written appraisal for estate planning or insurance, please contact our Appraisal Services department.

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Manuel Neri Original Art values sold at auction

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