Tuesday, November 18, 2008


Mirka Mora

was born in Paris in 1928 and immigrated with her husband Georges to Melbourne, Australia in 1951.

Her early training was in mime and drama at the Ecole Jean-Louis Barrault, but she had already begun to focus on painting by the time she reached Australia. She and Georges were instrumental in the re-establishment of the Contemporary Art Society in Melbourne from 1953, with their apartment on Collins Street being the meeting place and gallery for the CAS in the early years.

In my opinion, she has been one of the key drivers of what has come to define Melbourne as an Australian City. Her influence on Australian Art and Melbourne culture has cannot be understated.

She was a colleague, mentor, muse and friend of artists including Arthur Boyd, John Perceval, Joy Hester, Charles Blackman, Laurence Hope and Dawn and Ian Sime and John and Sunday Reed. The Reeds founded the Heide Museum of Modern Art located in the then outskirts of Melbourne in Bulleen.

Georges and Mirka were largely responsible in bringing sophisticated European dining to 1950s Melbourne, opening the Mirka Café in Exhibition Street in 1954, then the Balzac in East Melbourne in 1958 (the first Melbourne restaurant to receive a 10pm liquor licence) and finally Tolarno in St Kilda in 1965. In the photo of Mirka Cafe above, you can see Mirka in the centre of the shot, her hand on her face with Georges crouching down.

They were the originators of the true bohemian and artistic flavour of St Kilda, with the heart based at Hotel Tolarno.

Guy Grossi, one of Melbourne's premier Chefs opened his homage to her at the newly refurbished Tolano Hotel in 2007 naming his restaurant after her: Mirka

Mirka Restaurant is a living, breathing canvas-in-progress of Mirka's work, with her whimsical and instantly recognisable friezes and murals decorating the walls of the Fitzroy St eatery:

The food is wonderful, the service sublime. I highly recommend a intimate dinner here with those you love.

In a wonderful interview with Andrew Denton in 2007, she discussed her life, her loves and her philosophy. In a moving moment she told the tale of how she managed to escape the Holocaust and endeared the audience with her explanation of some of her more outrageous public behaviour:

"I don’t like to follow order. And the director of the tapestry workshop, with all due respect to her, had told me what to do when my turn would be to pull the curtain... And when my turn came I said, "I can’t just pull the curtain like all the other people. I have to do something funny." So I organised myself to drop my pants..."

To know about her is to be delighted by her.

Sunburned but happy, here I am at Mirka Restaurant after the races earlier this month.


diamondsinchampagne said...

Ahhh her paintings look like they are Russian inspired. I like them!
Thanks for this post, I didn't know who she was before reading this.

Too Many Shoes said...

Diamonds, she really is the most interesting woman!

I had the pleasure of meeting her many years ago when I was a teenager working in a Cafe.

I had studied her briefly at school and recognised her. She was so lovely and drew me a picture on my order-pad, which Mr TMS had framed for my birthday last year.

So now I have my very own Mirka Mora original to display at home!

Miss_Red said...

What an interesting post! It's sounds as though she had the most fascinating life, I love the first picture in this post- she looks so full of life and character.

Anonymous said...

I love your feather hat!