The art world is built on elitism, says Lily Mora – so she’s shaking things up

Knowing the art world from the inside, Lily Mora is only too aware of its foibles. In part to demystify what for many is an intimidating scene, she has launched the affordable art business Sunday Salon, designed to help budding collectors get started.

Lily Mora has set up an affordable art company called Sunday Salon.Credit:Simon Schluter

“The art world traditionally is built on elitism. Even the language we use, ‘private view’ it sounds exclusive, as though it’s by invitation only,” she says. “So many people who love and appreciate art don’t feel able to access it [if they’re] outside the industry.”

The name is a nod to Sunday Reed, one of Australia’s best-known champions of young artists, whose home with John Reed (which later would become Heide Gallery) provided a haven for many modernist artists including Sidney Nolan, Arthur Boyd, Joy Hester, John Perceval and, of course, Mirka Mora – Lily’s grandmother.

“Sunday is one of the rare powerful female figures in the Australian art world and had such great belief in emerging artists.”

Mirka, Fred and Lily Mora.Credit:Serge Thomann

A third generation gallerist, Mora follows in the footsteps of her father William and her grandfather Georges, whose Mirka Cafe, Contemporary Art Society, MOMAA, Cafe Balzac and then Tolarno were institutions in Melbourne, showing art as an integral part of the business.

Often asked by friends and peers where to buy art that’s not too expensive and knowing how many emerging artists were working in Melbourne, Mora spied a niche.

Largely a digital business, Sunday Salon will host occasional shows, with an exhibition of Julian Hocking’s work slated for July at a venue to be determined.

About 10-15 artists are currently available through the site, with new works added regularly. All the art will go live at the beginning of each month and will be online to preview.

Detail of Koala, 2021 by Jordy van den Nieuwendijk.Credit:Courtesy of Sunday Salon

The global pandemic has been a blessing in disguise for the nascent business – with travel, restaurants, gigs and theatre off the agenda, many Australians left staring at the same four walls of their homes invested in art.

When she launched the online site in July last year, Mora says she wandered off to get a champagne and came back to find 12 works had sold.

“I’ve been completely overwhelmed by the response so far and have been able to grow a new community of art buyers quite quickly.”

After a five-year stint overseas, Mora returned in December last year, just in time for the COVID-driven shutdowns.

She decamped to Newstead, in central Victoria, and set about creating her own business, inspired by her experience in the not-for-profit art world.

While overseas, Mora worked on the opening of the Tate Modern and then at communications agency Suttons, with some of London’s top galleries, as well as Art Basel Hong Kong and the Venice Biennale. “I had some real pinch-me moments, like interviewing Gilbert & George,” she says.

Having the late Mirka Mora as a grandmother was as wonderful and madcap as you might imagine. The French-born artist known for her stunning, life-affirming paintings including winged, cherubic figures characterised by striking, wide-open eyes – as well as her often outrageous behaviour, left a great legacy.

Mirka lived next door to her son, William, as well as his children Lily and her brother Fred. William’s eponymous gallery in Richmond houses much of the Mirka Mora collection. A major show of her work, called simply MIRKA, is currently at the Jewish Museum.

“She was wicked and naughty and used to spoil my brother and I ridiculously. When we were six and nine, she got a supermarket trolley at Toys R Us and said ‘I will buy you as many toys as you can fit in that trolley’.”

They ran around slightly panicked but delighted, grabbing whatever took their fancy.

Mirka was always teaching her grandchildren to misbehave, Mora says. In the restaurant, she would show them how to loosen the salt and pepper lids, she’d get under the tables and tie people’s shoelaces together. “As children, she was so magical to be around.”



See Sundaysalon.com.au and Instagram @sunday.salon

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