Lily Kelly Napangardi 1948

Top 200 Australian Aboriginal Artists Special Feature

Lily Kelly Napangardi
Lily Kelly Napangardi, Tali Sandhills (2008), Courtesy Japingka Gallery

Country: Tanami Desert
Language: Warlpiri
Community: Mount Leibig
Works Offered/Sold at Auction: 37/22
Total Sales at Auction to 2009: AUD$221,003.00
Highest result at Auction to 2009: AUD$39,600.00
Rank amongst Living Artists: 33
Rank amongst all artists of the movement: 78

Lily Kelly Napangardi 1948

Lily Kelly Napangardi (AKA Lilly Kelly Napangati) was born at Haasts Bluff and spent her earlier years in Papunya where she first began painting in the company of Norman Kelly Tjampitjinpa. After marrying they moved to Watiyawanu (Mount Leibig, 325 west of Alice Springs) where Lily continues to live. She began painting in her own right in the early 1980's, and, in 1986, won the Northern Territory Art Award.

During the 1990’s her husband moved to Lajamanu and she brought up their three children and continued to paint without particular distinction. In time she became one of the senior Law Women of the Mount Leibig community, and the custodian over the Women Dreaming stories associated with Kunajarrayi, which she passes on to her children, eleven grandchildren, and other young women of her clan.

Lily Kelly’s works began once more to gain national attention from 2000 onward through her participation in the annual Desert Mob exhibition in Alice Springs and her selection as a finalist in the NATSIA Telstra awards. In 2003 was awarded the first prize in the General Painting category. This recognition followed the sale of two spectacular major works to the Art Gallery of New South Wales arranged through Neil Murphy Indigenous Art, which organized a solo exhibition for the artist at Span Galleries in Melbourne in the same year.

Like many artists Lilly Kelly paints for an art centre and also independent dealers - in such cases you need to be careful that you are purchasing a superior work so make sure you apply due diligence. Without doubt Neil Murphy’s expertise would be invaluable if you are hoping to acquire a work of the highest quality.

Australian Art Collector Magazine selected her as one of Australia's 50 most collectable artists for 2006. Works of the highest quality have been acquired by a number of major international collectors including Thomas Vroom and Richard Kelton as well as being added to several Australian State art galleries. The magnificent paintings held by the Art Gallery of NSW were exhibited in the exhibition Gifted: Contemporary Aboriginal Art: The Molly Gowing Acquisition Fund in 2006/2007.

The artist’s record price at auction was achieved for a work of this quality when Sandhills Around Mount Leibig 2004, measuring 176 x 120 cm. sold for $39,600 against a presale estimate of just $12,000-16,000 at Sotheby's in July 2007 (Lot 167). All of her top ten results have been for works created since 2000 and her success rate is a respectable 63%. Her average price of $10,551 reflects the fact that most of the 22 works that have sold in the secondary market have been relatively large with few falling below 90 x 120 cm.

Lily Kelly’s depictions of country refer in particular to sand hills and the effect of wind and rain on the desert landscape in country around Mt. Liebig, Haasts Bluff, Kintore and Connistan. They have been said to mark the seasonal changes in this sandy landscape, and the crucial waterholes found in the area. The best of these works evoke the ephemeral nature of the drifting, changing sandy country in the finest microcosmic detail. Yet beholding each work in is entirety is to view the landscape in macrocosm as the eye follows the hypnotic fine doting and muted tones that build up into a mysterious, hidden topography of her land. They are rendered in intricate detail, with subtle colour variations that covey powerful and inspiring visions of her country with a fascinating accuracy.

This particular work was painted in a freer, more highly contrasting style, than those described above. Rain Showers 2005 typifies her works post 2004 and measures 210 x 122 cm. It is a fine example of her more recent works with the variegated tiny white dots conveying the dynamic nature of the landscape through the movement of sand and water. It is a very appealing work ideally suited to a contemporary modern interior.

This review is by Adrian Newstead, a leading Aboriginal art consultant.

As part of this informative series, Adrian profiles a selection of Australia's 200 highest selling and most successful living and deceased Aboriginal artists. Each profile contains the artist's primary and secondary market results. They have been written to assist collectors in learning more about the artists behind the paintings, and the place of each artist in the history of the development of specific regional styles.

Adrian Newstead is the owner of Cooee Gallery in Bondi, Sydney. Statistics supplied by the AASD (Australian Art Sales Digest) which ranks artists according to performance indicators relating to secondary market sales.



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