Jean Tiroche was born in Poland in 1925. At the age of three, he moved with his family to France. In his teens he began working as an apprentice to his father, a cabinetmaker working in the flea market in Paris. Young Jean managed to convince his father not only to conserve antique furniture but also to start dealing in it. When the Second World War broke out, Jean joined the French Resistance. It was only after the end of the war, when he returned to Paris, that Jean learnt of the death of his parents and both of his elder brothers.
With his uncle’s financial assistance, Jean bought a small truck and began travelling through the French countryside on weekdays, seeking out furniture, silverware, glassware, decorative paintings, carpets and so forth. Within a few months, he was able to pay back his uncle's loan. In 1949, after the establishment of the State of Israel, he decided to move there. A year later, he opened an antique shop on Ben Yehuda Street in Tel Aviv, before subsequently moving to premises on Allenby Street and then Dizengoff Street.
Simone Tiroche (née Nahon) was born in Casablanca, Morocco. As a young teenager, she joined the Zionist movement and helped young Jews fleeing Morocco to reach Marseilles and later Paris on their way to Israel. Later, she too decided to move there, arriving in 1948. In 1950, she met Jean at the home of mutual friends. They married the following year. Jean and Simone were soon at the heart of bohemian nightlife in Tel Aviv. They were gracious and generous hosts at home and in bars and restaurants, where they entertained a circle of bon vivant contemporaries.
In 1959, following a visit to Jaffa, Jean was inspired to close his shop on Dizengoff Street. Instead, he bought a former brothel in Old Jaffa and converted it into the old city's first art gallery, opening in 1960. The exotic exhibition space of the Tiroche Gallery and its steady influx of influential visitors markedly enlivened Jaffa’s night life. The Tiroches relished its Parisian salon-like lifestyle, entertaining the well-known artists, actors and singers of the day.
Jean was a self-taught and self-made man. The artists of the School of Paris were his main field of expertise. In his Jaffa gallery, he exhibited works by artists such as Modigliani, Chagall, Kisling and Pascin. His taste was innovative and modern. He also promoted local artists, such as Nachum Gutman, an established figure at the time, and more contemporary figures such as Aharon Messeg.
Jean realised that he was not fully exploiting his knowledge and potential in Israel. First, encouraged by American collectors, he opened galleries in Palm Beach, Florida and New York; from 1982, he refocused his attention, moving part-time to Europe and selling to an increasingly international market that included Japan. Tall and red-headed, he became a familiar figure in auction houses around the world. He was also widely respected for his expertise.
Jean passed away in Tel Aviv in 2007 and Simone in April this year. They are survived by their three children and eight grandchildren. Their legacy lives on in their three children, who are each committed to careers in the art world and are experts in their chosen fields.