Metro Tunnel creative program marks the legacy of Mirka Mora

Photo by James Henry

The photographer may be unknown, but their picture of artist Mirka Mora, walking down Collins St in 1954, is one of the most recognisable Melbourne snapshots of the era.

Dressed stylishly in a white shirt, a long skirt and flat shoes, the image of the young Mirka – then just 26 years old – could fit perfectly into the fashion magazines of 2021. Her dress sense is the classic example of how everything old is new again.

The iconic photo is the latest addition to the Metro Tunnel project’s creative program, installed in huge proportions at the end of Scott Alley. There, it’s providing a glimpse of a less complicated time for Melburnians who live within five kilometres of the city laneway. 

Melbourne’s much-loved laneways are home to some of the city’s favourite cafes and bars, which is fitting given the influence the Paris-born Mirka and her husband Georges had on Melbourne’s mid-century culinary landscape. 

Their Mirka Café in Exhibition St opened in 1954, followed by Café Balzac in Wellington Parade East Melbourne and Tolarno in Fitzroy St St Kilda. 

While the Moras had an undeniable influence on Melbourne’s café culture, Mirka is best known for her art, including paintings, drawings, sculptures, and mosaics. Collins St was the site of both the family home and Mirka’s studio, appropriately at the Paris end of town in Grosvenor Chambers.

Mirka’s legacy is seen in many parts of her adopted hometown, from the mural at Flinders Street Station to the mosaic at St Kilda Pier. 

Mirka Mora’s life, in which she experienced the mass arrest of French Jews in Paris and was released just days before she was due to be sent to Auschwitz, is being marked in a retrospective at the Jewish Museum of Australia at 26 Alma Rd, St Kilda until December 19 (closed at time of publication) •

To find out if the museum is currently open and for details of the exhibition go to jewishmuseum.com.au/mirka

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