Mirka Mora mourned

Artist Mirka Mora in her studio. Photo: Fred Kroh

TRIBUTES have been paid to French-born Jewish artist Mirka Mora who died this week aged 90.

Mirka and her husband Georges Mora, whom she had married in 1947, arrived in Australia in 1951 and immediately transformed Melbourne’s arts and restaurant scene.

Their studio apartment at 9 Collins Street was a hub for Melbourne’s bohemian set, which transferred in 1954 to Mirka Café in Exhibition Street, boasting one of the first espresso machines in Melbourne. A few years later they opened Balzac restaurant in East Melbourne and Tolarno in St Kilda.

Mirka’s distinctive art was being collected by major galleries. The couple had three sons – Philippe, William and Teriel.

Filmmaker and director Philippe, who has been based in Los Angeles for more than 35 years, was in Melbourne in recent days.

“I was with my incredible mother two days ago in Melbourne and she was still fighting hard,” said Philippe.

He noted that Mirka loved Paris, where she grew up, but never forgot or forgave the Vichy collaborators of World War II.

“Mirka never dwelled on the morbid aspects of World War II. On the contrary she celebrated life and brought us up with our father to appreciate all the good things in life like art, family, love, music and health,” he said.

“So for all the dark aspects of life my mother had an antidote in positive thinking, creativity and love.

“She loved her adopted home Australia and like my father dragged aspects of that country into the 20th century and onwards.”

A major exhibition of Mirka’s work, planned for October at Heide Museum of Modern Art, will go ahead as a tribute exhibition, according to the museum.

The exhibition, Pas de Deux – Drawings and Dolls, features drawings and soft-sculpture dolls from her home and studio. The exhibition will run from October 27 to March 24, 2019.

“Although we have lost Mirka, her art endures, and leaves us with a rich and compelling portrait of her innermost self,” the museum said in a statement.

Premier Daniel Andrews paid tribute to the talented artist, saying that she “drenched our city and our state with colour”.

“An artist for more than six decades, Mirka’s pieces extended across a breadth of media, from ceramics to doll-making, and her works are present in galleries across Australia and around the world.”

In 2016 Philippe made the documentary film, Monsieur Mayonnaise, about the wartime experience of his father, Georges, in the French Resistance during World War II when he helped to save thousands of Jewish children and adults from the Nazis. Georges died in 1992.

DANNY GOCS