Museum Kampa founder Meda Mládková dies aged 102

The art patron and collector helped to support and popularize modern and abstract Czechoslovak art.

Raymond Johnston

Written by Raymond Johnston Published on 03.05.2022 09:56:00 (updated on 03.05.2022) Reading time: 3 minutes

Czech art historian, collector, and patron Meda Mládková died in the early morning hours at the age of 102, the Jan and Meda Mládek Foundation and Museum Kampa, which she founded, announced.

“The Kampa Museum wakes up to a very sad morning. Its founder, patron, and art collector, Meda Mládková, died. … Meda, although she lived a large part of her long life abroad, was always a great patriot and loved the Czech nation,” Museum Kampa stated on Facebook

“When political circumstances allowed her to return to the country, she contributed to the cultural development of the Czech Republic like few others. Aware of the legacy of this great woman, we will conscientiously try to preserve it as much as possible,” the museum added.

Politician Jiří Pospíšil, who is also chairman of the Kampa Museum’s board of directors, said Mládková suffered from problems after her hip joint surgery. She had been staying in her flat in Kampa where she died.

“Today we were left by one of the most important women in our modern history, an extraordinary personality and also my close friend – Mrs. Meda Mládková,” Pospíšil said.

He said she loved the Czech nation and that is why she decided to establish Museum Kampa in Prague and place the collections she has gathered throughout her life in it, symbolically dedicating them to the Czech nation.

“Her departure is a great loss for all of us, and I personally have had the great honor of being able to work closely with Mrs. Meda Mládková over the last few years and take on the extraordinary responsibility of caring for her work and her spiritual legacy,” he said.

“All her life she believed in the idea: ‘If culture survives, the nation will survive,’ and this idea will remain after her. We thank you for everything,” Pospíšil said.

She was born Marie Sokolová in Zákupy, north Bohemia, on Sept. 8, 1919. According to the Kampa Museum website, she spent part of World War II abroad, and after the war ended she studied economics in Switzerland. When the communists seized power in Czechoslovakia in 1948, she remained abroad.

Between 1955 and ’60 she studied art history in Paris and ran a Czech publishing company, Edition Sokolová, which published the first monograph on the Czech painter Toyen. While there she met the Czech painter František Kupka and began collecting his work.

She also met Jan Mládek, one of the founders of the International Monetary Fund (IMF). They married and in 1960 they moved to Washington, D.C.

Their house in Washington welcomed notable people from Czechoslovakia and Central Europe, and from American arts and politics, including Madeleine Albright. The Mládeks’ guests included writer Bohumil Hrabal and the future president of Czechoslovakia Václav Havel when they visited America.

In 1967 she began regularly visiting Czechoslovakia, and by collecting art she could support artists who were not free to exhibit their work. This collection formed the basis of Museum Kampa, which she founded when she returned to Czechoslovakia after the Velvet Revolution.

She chose the rundown building of the former Sova mills on Kampa to house her collection, and she established a foundation bearing her and her late husband's name. Jan Mládek passed away in 1989. She opened Museum Kampa in the renovated mill building in 2003.

The Mládková’s collection contains more than 220 paintings and drawings by abstract art pioneer Kupka, 16 sculptures by Otto Gutfreund, and over 1,000 works by Czech and Slovak artists from 1965 to '85. Besides, Czech poet, artist, and collector Jiří Kolář donated his art collection to the Mládek foundation before his death in 2002.

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