A Century of Meda Mládek, Czech Art Patron

A Century of Meda Mládek, Czech Art Patron

This year the Czech art scene is celebrating the 100th birthday of the famous founder of Kampa Museum in Prague!

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Meda Mládek has been a prominent personality of the Czech art scene for all of the latter half of the 20th century. When reading her biography, it is almost hard to believe that her homes have welcomed almost every famous Czech painter, writer, filmmaker, and publisher. Mrs Mládek has spent her long life surrounded by art in every form, and this lifelong passion eventually led to her founding of Kampa Museum after 1989’s Velvet Revolution and her return to Prague. Today, this museum is the temporary and permanent home to many pieces of modern art. Experience the museum’s exhibitions, take a walk on Kampa Island, and embark on a journey that follows the path of this modern art and lifestyle promoter who is celebrating her 100th birthday this year.

100 Years of Living with Art

Meda Mládek was born in 1919 in Zákupy in the north of Bohemia. After the World War II, she studied economics in Switzerland. After the Communists took power in Czechoslovakia, she refused to return to her home country. In Paris, where she resided in the 1950s, she ran a Czech publishing house, and even then she took an interest in Czech artists. For instance, she published the very first independent monograph on the Czech painter Toyen, perhaps thanks in part to her simultaneous study of art history at the Sorbonne. Also in Paris in the 1950s, she met František Kupka, a skilled painter with Czech roots, and started collecting his work intensively. She also met Jan Mládek, one of the founders of the International Monetary Fund; they married and in 1960 and soon moved to Washington DC. Their house welcomed many notable people from Czechoslovakia and Central Europe, as well as from American arts and politics; just two of her many visitors were Madeleine Albright and Václav Havel. Mrs Mládek also visited Communist Czechoslovakia on a regular basis, and by collecting art she found a way to support Czech artists who were not free to exhibit their work in their home country. This collection formed the basis of today’s Kampa Museum, which she founded upon her return to Czechoslovakia after the Velvet Revolution in 1989. Now, in 2019, she is living in Prague and will be celebrating her 100th birthday!

Kampa Museum– a Dream Come True

Mrs Meda founded the museum at the end of the 20th century. She wanted her collections to have a dignified home and constant care. She managed to acquire and reconstruct Sova’s Mills near the Vltava, situated on Kampa Island in central Prague within view of Prague Castle above. A tour of Kampa Museum reveals many secrets of modern art. The museum oversees the vast collections of two icons of 20th century art history – František Kupka and Otto Gutfreund – as well as a Central European modern art collection and the private collections of other patrons. Kampa Museum also organises short-term exhibitions of the work of Czech and foreign artists, and has hosted work by such distinguished creators as Yoko Ono, Frank Malina, Joseph Beuys, Matěj Krén, Julian Opie, Piet Mondrian, Theodor Pištěk, and Andy Warhol. At the moment, the museum is hosting the MEDA Ambassador of Art exhibition until 30 September 2019. The exhibition presents the exciting life of these Czech patrons in the US as well as their life in free Czechoslovakia, when their home became a salon for newly liberated artists. You can also visit an exhibition called Helmut Newton in Dialogue, which runs until October and presents photographs by the famous German-Australian photographer. And from October 2019 until January 2020, there will be a large exhibition dedicated to Alena Šrámková, one of the most notable contemporary Czech architects, who will celebrate her 90th birthday.

Werich Villa on Kampa Island and Portheimka Glass Museum

If you move down Kampa Island towards Charles Bridge – a perfect place for a picnic, by the way – you will come across a villa, the former home of Jan Werich. Today, this grand building is managed by the Jan and Meda Mládek Foundation, which has created a monument to Czech theatre before World War II, the era of Jan Werich. The ground floor of the villa also houses one of the must-visit confectionaries in Prague!

Part of the Jan and Meda Mládek Foundation is a museum in Portheimka Palace in Prague’s Smíchov district, a building constructed as a summer residence by the famous Baroque architect Kilián Ignác Dientzenhofer and now used as a gallery of fine art glass. The works are presented in a manner designed to reflect both the location’s historic Baroque atmosphere as well as the purity of the glass artefacts. Spaces on the first floor are used for exhibition purposes and include an elliptical marble hall, two halls with frescos, a hall with a grand fireplace, and a hall decorated with a cassette ceiling. Still other rooms evoke past glories and ages when the Palace was used to celebrate, entertain, and enthral. In addition to its permanent art glass exhibitions, the Portheimka Museum also offers a rich and engaging programme of short-term exhibitions and events geared towards education, enlightenment, and refined entertainment.