Mirka Mora is a name counted among the pioneers of Australian contemporary art and her influence is felt through her artwork in Australia, especially in the city of Melbourne. The story of a girl who escaped a concentration camp and survived the Holocaust by hiding inside forests with her family and seeing war happenings during World War II which were certainly unfortunate, to becoming an influential cultural figure in the art circle in Australia is very much inciting. Let’s know it one by one,
1. Who was Mirka Mora
Mirka Madeleine Zelik was an Australian visual artist who was born in the capital of France- Paris on 18th March 1928. Born to Jewish parents, she faced adversities of the Second World War such as surviving the Holocaust. Her Father, Leon Zelik (A Lithuanian) coped to release her and her mother Celia Gelbein (a Romanian) from the Pithiviers Concentration Camp and the family managed to flee by hiding in the forests in France.
She was also arrested during the Vel’ d’Hiv Roundup in 1942. She later married a German-born resistance war fighter named Georges Mora at the age of nearly 19 years. After her marriage, she began to be known as Mirka Mora.
She is known for her contribution to reviving Australian Contemporary Art and is also known for artistic cafes and galleries in Melbourne as well as the rest of Australia.
2. Moved to Australia by 1951
The Mora family moved to Melbourne, Australia in 1951 after the holocaust. They particularly selected Melbourne as their place of stay because Mirka read about a Parisian photographer who made trips to Melbourne consistently to earn a fortune in a novel written by Henri Murger.
Soon after their migration, the Mora couple raised themselves into important cultural figures in Melbourne. It took them only three years to join the circle of renowned Australian writers and artists such as Albert Tucker, Fred Williams, Arthur Boyd, Charles and Barbara Blackman, and John Perceval.
Apart from these people, the Mora family’s closest friends were eminent art patrons- John and Sunday Reed, with whom they were progressing towards renovating the Contemporary Art Society.
It is very compelling to know the fact that the house of the Reeds named “Heide” where the Mora couple and the Reeds spent their weekends with laughter, happiness, and discussion of art is now known as the Heide Museum of Modern art.
3. Her Presence in Australia
They started by having some studios in Grosvenor Chambers at the very famous Collins street. After that, In 1954, they started a cafe which as of today is a very famous European-styled cafe- the Mirka café. The cafe was inaugurated by famous singer and songwriter- Jean Sablon. The cafe is situated at 183 Exhibition street.
After the Mirka café, another restaurant named they opened the Balzac restaurant at 62 Wellington Parade of East Melbourne. Mirka has said that they opened the Balzac restaurant as the Mirka cafe became too crowded so that people can’t get inside the cafe. The Balzac was also the first restaurant in Eastern Melbourne which be granted a 10 PM liquor license.
In 1966, the Mora couple again launched a new restaurant at Fitzroy Street in St. Kilda called “Tolarno“. The Tolarno restaurant also incorporated several fascinating sections such as Tolarno galleries, a bas-relief made behind the Tolarno bar. The Tolarno hotel also consists of several murals that you can find on the walls, doors, and windows of the hotel.
You can see her art at the Flinders street station which is located in Melbourne to know that her creative aura is right there still now in Melbourne.
4. The Art of Mirka Mora
Mirka mora’s work is largely based on Greek Classical Mythology, Romanian folklore, and fairy tales as can be seen from her artworks such as mosaic paintings, murals, soft sculpture, doll making, glass art, and bas-reliefs. Her art expressed symbolism in the form of animals, children, angels, birds, snakes, and mythical creatures (such as Chimera).
In one of her paintings, Mora also portrayed Charles Perkins-An Aboriginal leader in conversation with three white leaders. As Mirka was a colorist by nature, her artworks will tinge on you with brilliant, vibrant, and also noir colors.
Some others of her work include Bennelong puppets, Ivan the Terrible in 1964, and also her first exhibition of the three circus clown paintings which was exhibited by the Contemporary art society.
Mirka Mora was also the first artist to explore tram art and completed her artwork on a tram with beautiful imagery with the help of colors and fabric. Out of Mora’s numerous private collections, the most expensive artwork of hers was priced at around $120,000.
through all these, she helped in establishing Contemporary Australian art in Melbourne. She tried too hard and succeeded in landing Australia in the Venice Biennale for the first time.
Her dedication to common young artists and native art has made several headlines such as that from Mr. James Antoniou of The Australian– A national daily newspaper company which described her as “an artist of the city as well of the people”.
With such great things that she has done during her life, after her death on the 27th of August 2018 in Melbourne when she was 90, A State memorial was celebrated to remember her which was attended by over 1200 people at the Palais De Danse. Mirka Mora became the first female artist to get the Victorian State Memorial.
5. The Family of Mirka Mora
Mora’s family comprised her husband Georges Mora, who was an eminent art dealer, restaurateur, and connoisseur. Simply an entrepreneur. The Mora couple has three children: Philippe Mora who is a film director, Tiriel Mora– An Australian actor, and William Mora, an art dealer who has several art galleries that go by the name “William Mora galleries”.
6. Some Must Know Facts about Mirka Mora
- In 2012 and 2013, Mora appeared in interviews on the television program named “Agony Aunts and The Agony of Life” which was broadcasted by ABC news.
2. Mirka Mora was honored with an Order of France- “Officier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres” in the year 2002 for her significant contribution to the Arts. The Order was given by the French Ministry of Culture and communication.
3. Mirka Mora was a wonderful teacher and she spent many years of her life conducting workshops and teaching her art to numerous Australians. Not only this, but she also conducted workshops in the USA, Japan, and France.
4. throughout her career, Mora exhibited 35 solo exhibitions in several art galleries. More importantly, in the Heide museum of modern art, Tolarno Galleries, the Contemporary Art Society, and the Watters gallery. Some examples of her exhibitions include Project 20, an oil painting exhibition (42 in no.) at Arthouse, Tasmania, the Aleph group’s paintings, etc.
5. Mirka Mora and Georges Mora separated from each other due to both of them having extramarital relationships.
6. Many renowned art galleries from different cities in Australia have fascinating collections of the Artwork of Mirka Mora. Art galleries such as the National Gallery of Victoria in Melbourne, the National Gallery of Australia in Canberra, St. Kilda Pier, Ballarat Fine Art Gallery, the Flinders street station in Melbourne, etc to name a few.
7. Mora made very strenuous efforts to establish Australia to Venice as the Commonwealth Arts Advisory Board which was very conservative and against it. Also during that time, there were some differences between the modernist and traditional art groups. All of these slowed her effort till 1978 when Australia was represented to Venice under the banner of the Australian arts Council.
8. An exhibition named “Mirka Mora: Charcoals 1958-1965 was exhibited at the Melbourne Art Fair in 2018 which was very before her death.
9. Mirka Mora along with other artists such as Reg Mombassa, Ginger Riley, Bruce Petty, and many others were involved in the formation of the Federation Tapestry Suite at the Melbourne Museum for the Australian Centenary of Federation in the year 2001.
10. Mirka also was a helping hand to the Australian fashion industry and she collaborated with Gorman– An Australian Fashion Company, to launch her 23 artwork collections.
11. Le Courrier Australien– A French-English online newspaper reported that a Vernissage made jointly by Mirka Mora and Jean Dubuffet in 1997 at the George Gallery in Fitzroy street was addressed by about 800 people.
Mirka Mora was super cool and fabulous! Just search for Images or videos of Mirka Mora on any search engine and you will always find a lovely smile on her face. I mean, there are very few people born into this world who have the zeal and courage to smile and rise exponentially after experiencing the atrocities of the Second World War and the Holocaust at a very small age.
This French-born Australian artist kept enjoying her dreams and her art without caring about the world and enlightened us that “Life is very beautiful” and always “It is never the End!“. Salute to you, Mrs. Mora!
And here, I would conclude this story. I hope you all have liked it. Please share your thoughts on this article by comments. It’s very fun to engage with you all. Also, if you want to learn about some more famous Australian personalities, Click 4 Interesting things about Katherine Langford. See you Soon!