The Jiří and Běla Kolář Collection

The poet and artist Jiří Kolář (1914-2002) and his wife Běla, an artist and photographer, were among the most important Czech post-war artists. There were prominent figures on the Czechoslovak art scene, and despite the totalitarian regime they were very knowledgeable about art in this country and abroad. Kolář’s table at the Café Slavia was an important meeting place, and artists and critics from all over the country wrote to him and visited him. Jiří Kolář actively maintained this network and he supported many young artists, for instance by collecting their works or exchanging his own art for them. This resulted in a large collection assembled over several decades, and it reflects Kolář’s interest in art that presented unusual perspectives on the modern world, covering many different genres and approaches. The collection reflects his receptivity to the most varied forms of expression, and his ability to trace new connections.

The collection is divided into several parts. The first part has works by famous Czech modern artists such as Josef Václav Myslbek, Luděk Marold, Josef Mařatka and Alfons Mucha. The collection also includes noted avant-garde artists from the first half of the 20th century, with a series of remarkable abstract paintings by František Kupka, innovative collages by Vojtěch Preissig, a series of prints by Josef Čapek, and works by František Tichý, Václav Tikal, Václav Špála and Alois Wachsman.

Another important part of the collection features artists from Skupina 42, a group formed during the Second World War; Kolář was himself a member. There are paintings, drawings and prints by Jan Kotík, František Gross, František Hudeček, Kamil Lhoták, Bohumír Matal and Jan Smetana, and photographs by Miroslav Hák. Another section features artists who emerged mainly in the late 1950s and early 1960s and worked with all kinds of experimental techniques. They include Ladislav Novák, Vladimír Boudník (although Jiří Kolář donated his collection of Boudník’s work to Prague City Gallery), Vladimír Burda, Milan Dobeš, Čestmír Janošek, Milan Grygar, Josef Hampl, Jiří Hilmar, Jan Koblasa, Antonín Málek, Jiří Valenta, J. H. Kocman, Karel Malich, Vladislav Mirvald, Pavla Mautnerová, Robert Piesen, Stanislav Podhrázský and Mikuláš Medek. Artists from the subsequent generation include Olaf Hanel, Robert Wittmann, Miloslav Moucha and others.

The collection also has work by conceptual artists and documentation for some of their projects. They include Milan Knížák, Jan Mlčoch and Karel Miler. There is a more modest section of art from other countries, with artists such as Auguste Rodin, François Morellet, George Maciunas and Hans Hartung. Jiří and Běla Kolář donated their collection to the Jan and Meda Mládek Foundation – Museum Kampa and part of the collection, with many unique works of art, has now been moved to the museum.