Meda & Jan Mládek / Life, Exile, Art

Meda and Jan Mládek ranked among the prominent personalities of the Czechoslovak post-war exile and contributed significantly to the promotion of Czech culture in the world. The continuation and culmination of their activities in the restored democracy was the establishment of the Museum Kampa in Prague in 2003, which holds a collection of works by František Kupka and an extensive collection of Czech and Central European art covering the period from the 1960s to the present. Jan Mládek died a few months before the Velvet Revolution, while Meda outlived him by more than thirty years. She died in early May 2022 at the age of 103.

It was Meda who chose Rosice as the final resting place of both Jan and herself, as the Mládek family is supposed to have their roots in Rosice. Their grave in the Rosice cemetery is marked by a concrete statue of St. Francis of Assisi by Professor Jan Hendrych, who headed the sculpture studio at the Prague Academy for more than twenty-five years. The permanent exhibition Meda & Jan Mládek / Life, Exile, Art at the Rosice Chateau introduces the life and work of these two memorable personalities. The modern-designed exhibition in two chateau halls includes historical furniture from their American apartment, Meda’s clothes and jewellery, personal objects and selected works of art.

Jan Viktor Mládek (1911–1989) was a Czech-American economist and diplomat. On behalf of the Czechoslovak government in exile, he participated in the establishment of the International Monetary Fund in 1944 and later was one of its directors. He met Meda, née Sokolová, in Paris in 1954. In the 1960s, they relocated to Washington, D.C., where they found a new home and acquired American citizenship. Among the regular guests at their home were prominent figures of American diplomacy and politics with roots in Central Europe, such as Henry Kissinger, security adviser and Secretary of State in the Nixon and Ford administrations, financier George Soros, and academician and later the first woman to head the U.S. State Department, Madeleine Albright.

Meda Mládková (1919–2022) was a lifelong promoter of Czech culture. Her exile publishing house Éditions Sokolova published the first monograph of the painter Toyen in 1953. While in Paris, she became friends with the pioneer of abstraction František Kupka. Later, in the United States, the Mládeks built the largest private collection of his works. Their purchases also supported a number of Czechoslovak artists during the 1960s–1980s. Meda spent half a century in exile, and upon her return to the Czech Republic she initiated the establishment of the Museum Kampa. Her motto was: ‘If you want to, you can.’ The determination and tenacity with which she went about everything she did was a very valuable and inspiring lesson for a Czech society overwhelmed by forty years of Communist totalitarianism.