Linked to art for life: Patron Mládková dies aged 102

Meda Mladkova and Jiří Pospíšil |  Photo: David Sedlecký, Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 4.0

The death of Meda Mládková has caused much mourning in the Czech Republic. MEP Jiří Pospíšil (Top 09) is the president of the Kampa Museum and the Jan Mládek and Meda Mládková Foundation. On Tuesday morning, he said on national Czech radio broadcasts:

“Meda Mládková was an admirable personality. She had a big heart, was an ardent patriot and loved the Czech Republic very much. Her own fame was never important to her. Everything she did, she did to help others, especially Czech culture.

Ondřej Kundra wrote a book about the patron of art. He said on Czech radio on Tuesday:

Ondrej Kundra |  Photo: Jana Přinosilová, Czech Radio

“Meda Mládková was undoubtedly one of the most important women in modern Czech history. As one of the few women from Czechoslovakia, she was able to assert herself internationally. She helped Czechoslovak painters, sculptors and other artists out of their difficult situation. Mládková had one quality that is not common in the Czech Republic, and that was perseverance.

But who was the art collector?

Meda Mládková with her husband Jan |  Photo: Meda Mládková Archive, Kampa Museum

Meda Mládková was born on March 8, 1919 as Marie Sokolová in Zákupy / Reichstadt near Liberec / Reichenberg. After the Second World War, she first went to Switzerland, where she studied economics. She then emigrated to France. There she studied art history at the Sorbonne in Paris.

From the beginning, Mládková in exile was well connected with emigrants from Czechoslovakia. In the early 1950s, she founded the book publishing company Editions Sokolova in Paris. As part of this, she also met her future husband. Jan Mládek was then Governor of the International Monetary Fund. Mládková later described the first meeting in an interview for Czech Radio:

“I had heard so many times before that Jan Mládek was the most powerful man in exile and a great patriot. But he only supported us with two dollars a book. But I was out of money and it cost us $1,000 to publish a title. Then one day I walked into his office and said, “Mr. Mládek, I’m a Czech student. How come they support our releases with only two dollars? You know how hard it is to get off the books! »

Meda Mladkova |  Photo: Meda Mládková Archive, Kampa Museum

Jan Mládek got angry at first, then apologized and invited the student for a drink. It took some time before the two got to know each other better and finally got married. After the wedding, the couple lived in the United States. Politicians, artists and intellectuals in exile met in the house of the Mládeks in Washington. Meda Mládková and her husband also bought works of art – more to help than as an afterthought to start a collection. In the 1960s, Mládková repeatedly returned to Czechoslovakia for visits. She acquired works there or recommended them to Western galleries.

After her husband’s death in 1989, she donated the entire $30 million collection to the city of Prague. After the Velvet Revolution, the patron also came to the then Czechoslovak capital. Here she wanted to convert the then dilapidated Sova Mill, not far from Charles Bridge, into a temple of modern art. After some political resistance, it succeeded – and in 2003 the Kampa Museum opened its doors.

Kampa Museum |  Photo: Jolana Novakova, Czech Radio

Today, the museum’s collection includes 220 paintings and drawings by František Kupka. Mládková spoke on Czech radio about the artist who died in 1957: “It’s always like that: great artists only become famous after their death. This also applies to František Kupka. And it took many years before I could achieve that.”remembers the art collector. “What I did for Kupka, no one else has done. I can honestly say that without me Kupka wouldn’t be as famous as he is today.

The collection of the Jan Mládek and Meda Mládková Foundation also includes statues by Otto Gutfreund, numerous works by Jiří Kolář and more than 1000 other works by Czech and Slovak artists from the 1960s to 1980s.

Meda Mladkova and Vaclav Havel |  Photo: Meda Mládková Archive, Kampa Museum

Meda Mládková has received numerous awards for her services to Czech art. In 1999 she received the Czech Medal of Merit from President Václav Havel.

Meda Mládková died in her Prague apartment in the early hours of Tuesday morning. She was 102 years old. What remains is, among other things, one of the most important art collections in the Czech Republic. Hopefully many more interested people will be able to marvel at these at the Kampa Museum on the Vltava in the next 102 years.

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