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Melbourne art identity William Mora, a gallerist, art dealer and son of acclaimed artist Mirka Mora, has died aged 69.
Mora’s wife Anna Mortley confirmed he died at home in Richmond on Friday afternoon, surrounded by family, after a battle with lung cancer.
Melbourne art collector William Mora in 2021.Credit: Paul Jeffers
He ran William Mora Galleries, in Richmond, which housed his late mother’s acclaimed works and other modern art from emerging and established artists.
His mother, Mirka, was a French-born Australian bohemian icon whose distinctive art and colourful mosaics helped transform Melbourne into a city with a flourishing contemporary art scene alongside the likes of Sidney Nolan and Charles Blackman. Mora’s father Georges was an influential art dealer.
Mora followed his father’s path in showcasing visual art talent, helping run the family’s Tolarno Galleries – one of Melbourne’s first contemporary galleries – for a decade. He soon opened his own gallery in Flinders Lane in 1985.
Mora was one of the first gallerists to host solo shows by Indigenous artists, as opposed to showing by community. He worked with First Nations greats including Ginger Riley Munduwalawala and Queenie McKenzie and represented Paddy Bedford’s estate.
His wife Anna said her late husband was a loving, warm and trustworthy person with a great sense of humour.
“He has a huge legacy. He brought forward Indigenous art, and he pushed it to be seen as good as contemporary art,” she said. “He didn’t have contracts with artists – it was just a handshake.”
Max Delany, the director of the Australia Centre for Contemporary Art, paid tribute to Mora in an Instagram post on Saturday.
“Rest in peace beautiful Willie. Our lives have been immeasurably enriched by your storied life, beautiful family, friendships, your love of art, and your epicurean, rascally ways,” he wrote. “Lots of love, and oysters.”
William Mora in a studio in 2019 with all of his mother’s studio equipment including the last painting she was working on before she passed away (left).Credit: Justin McManus
Mora’s friend Serge Thomann, a former deputy mayor at the City of Port Phillip, said Mora was a beautiful human being.
“We were like brothers,” he said. “He was passionate. He certainly had the French joie de vivre.
“He was always very generous with people. Always very respectful of the artist he was representing and very honest. Always very respectful of his peers.
“He had an eye for good art, good talent and good people.”
Mora leaves behind his wife, 12-year-old daughter Carlotta and two adult children from his first marriage – Fred and Lily.
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