Art collector and patron Meda Mládková has died aged 102

Meda Mládková, was born as Marie Sokolová in the small town of Zákupy, in northern Bohemia, in 1919. She was initially trained as a dancer, but after World War II she went into exile , first in Geneva, where she studied economics, then in Paris, where she studied art history at the Sorbonne and the Ecole du Louvre.

It was in Paris that she met her future husband, Jan Mládek, who was in charge of the temporary administration of Czechoslovakia’s central bank after World War II.

Meda Mládková with the painting by František Kupka |  Photo: Milena Stráfeldová, Radio Prague International

It was also in Paris that she met the famous Czech painter František Kupka, whose work considerably influenced her vision of art. She began collecting Kupka’s works and gradually managed to build up the largest private collection of his works in the world.

Disappointed with postwar development in Czechoslovakia, Mládková and her husband moved to the United States in the 1960s, but she remained in contact with her home country and her Czechoslovakian friends.

She first returned to communist Czechoslovakia in 1967 and was impressed by the local art scene. She quickly established a network of contacts with artists and members of the wider cultural scene who provided her with their work.

In 1999, she established a foundation that acquired Sovovy Mlýny, a historic building a few hundred meters from Charles Bridge in Prague, and turned the building into a thriving art museum, called Museum Kampa.

Kampa Museum |  Photo: Radio Prague International

One of Meda Mládková’s greatest achievements has undoubtedly helped Czech audiences rediscover František Kupka, but journalist Ondřej Kundra, author of his long biography, says his support for artists behind the Iron Curtain was just as important. :

“What is even more important to me is what Meda Mládková did for all those maverick artists who suffered during the communist regime. They were numerous, they were very talented, but they could not have official exhibitions.

“Ms. Mládková bought their sculptures and paintings, and she also gave them energy and supported them in pursuing their artistic work. So I would say that she helped a whole generation of artists in this way. “

Meda Mladkova |  Photo: Jindřich Nosek, Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0

Mr. Kundra also points out that at the time Meda Mládková was born, it was extremely difficult for women to pursue their careers and by succeeding she definitely set an example for other women.

“I remember Meda Mládková as one of the few Czech women who had a career in the United States, along with Madeleine Albright, who actually lived a few blocks from the Mládek house.

“I will also remember Meda Mládková as a woman who never stopped working. When she returned to Czechoslovakia after the Velvet Revolution, she was already quite old.

“She could have retired and enjoyed her free time, but she continued her work and eventually managed to open her big museum, where she lived until the end of her life.”

Berta D. Wells