Good Weekend Art Column

Mirka Mora – William Mora Galleries, Melbourne

Published September 15, 2020
Mirka Mora, 'We Live in the Sea', (c. 1970)

Artist: Mirka Mora

Lived: in Richmond, Melbourne.

Age: (1928-2018)

Represented by: William Mora Gallery (no Sydney representation)

Her thing: Vibrant, child-like pictures and fabric sculptures.

Our take. Mirka Mora was a legendary figure in Melbourne’s Bohemian circles. Born in Paris into a family of Eastern European, Jewish emigrées, she narrowly escaped being sent to Auschwitz. It was at that time she met Georges Mora, whom she would marry in 1947. Four years later the Moras migrated to Melbourne, where their art galleries and restaurants would play a vital role in the growth of a cosmopolitan culture.

“Mirka”, as she was universally known, was vibrant, theatrical and compulsively creative. She worked in many different media, from painting and scupture to mosaic and embroidery. In 1971 she showed her first group of dolls, a form that would become an integral part of her work. This exhibition, Figures of Love, is reputedly the first that puts her sewn dolls alongside her graphic works. The dealer, William Mora, should know. He’s Mirka’s son and a second generation gallerist.

Everything in this display was recently discovered in the artist’s studio, and has never been previously exhibited. The themes are familiar and idiosyncratic: a cast of big-eyed characters – angels, humans, birds and animals – in surreal, dreamlike scenarios. Mirka’s pictures have been compared with Marc Chagall’s paintings of Jewish folklore, but her imagery is entirely her own. The consistent keynotes of her work are fantasy and joie-de-vivre.

Can I afford it?

The cheapest item in this show is a doll called Little Devil (22cm by 14cm by 5cm) at $2,500. The most expensive are 8 works on paper in charcoal and pastel, (each roughly 76cm by 56cm), selling for $15,000 each. For an artist of Mirka’s reputation, this is an eminently reasonable sum. The record price for one of her works is $120,000, achieved in a private sale. Five percent of the proceeds from sales will be donated to bushfire relief.

Where can I have a squiz?

William Mora Galleries, 60 Tanner Street, Richmond, Melbourne.  27 February – 3 April, 2020.


Published in The Good Weekend, Sydney Morning Herald, 14 March, 2020