Meda Mládek

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Meda Mládek (8 September 1919, Zákupy, née Marie Sokolová)

Art historian, collector, patron, founder of the Jan and Meda Mládek Foundation and Museum Kampa.

Marie Sokolová spent part of World War Two abroad, and after the war had ended she studied economics in Switzerland. When the communists seized power in Czechoslovakia she remained abroad, refusing to return. In the 1950s she lived in Paris, where she studied art history and ran a Czech publishing company, Edition Sokolová, whose publications included the first monograph on the Czech painter Toyen. In Paris she met a painter of Czech origin, František Kupka, and began collecting his work. She also met Jan Mládek, one of the founders of the International Monetary Fund; they married and in 1960 they moved to Washington.

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

Meda’s activities in Washington included entirely renovating large houses, designing their interiors and choosing furniture, ornaments and artworks for them.

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 1989 Velvet Revolution.

Jan Mládek was born in 1912 in Poland and studied economics at Charles University in Prague. In 1939 he moved to England and studied under John Maynard Keynes in London. At the wishes of President Edvard Beneš he then worked in the United States on the adopting of the Marshall Plan. In 1945 he became one of the first governors of the International Monetary Fund.

Jan Mládek died in 1989, shortly before the revolution. In accordance with her husband’s wishes, Meda Mládek decided to donate most of their collection to Prague, and to restore the Sova’s Mills to house it. Meda and Jan Mládek’s dream of promoting the cultural heritage culminated in the founding of Museum Kampa.

Alongside their many activities and interests (including skiing and travelling), the Mládeks were devoted animal lovers, and their house was home to numerous cats and several dogs. A vegetarian for many years, Meda Mládek was active in projects to rescue animals from fur farms. Her most recent dog, Tristan, is a Labrador cross.