New play among events celebrating 100th birthday of art patron Meda Mládková

Meda Mládková

Meda Mládková is one of those increasingly few people who have experienced the entirety of the past Czech century. She has also managed to leave her imprint on the period, becoming one of the country’s most important art connoisseurs. Ahead of her 100th birthday later this year, Kampa Museum is holding a number of events, including a play premiering on Monday.

Meda Mládková | Photo: Alžběta Švarcová,  Czech Radio
Meda Mládková was 28 years old when the Communist takeover of Czechoslovakia took place in 1948. Disillusioned, she decided to move to the United States.

All the while, she maintained her Czechoslovak connections during the Cold War. Her family house in Washington became a popular place to stay for Czech representatives of the cultural and political scene, housing individuals such as Václav Havel, writers Bohumil Hrabal and Ferdinand Peroutka, or Madeleine Albright.

A dancer, publisher and doctor of economics, Meda Mládková was already an accomplished individual during the 1960s.

However, it was what she did next that made her truly famous.

In 1967 she returned to Czechoslovakia for the first time and was startled by the local art scene, as she told Radio Prague in 2008.

“I thought it was absolutely unbelievable. It was the best period in Czech culture in maybe 100 years, because it was full of enthusiasm and joy. It was just unbelievable.”

Mrs. Mládková quickly established a web of contacts with artists and members of the wider cultural scene who supplied her with their work.

Meda Mládková with her husband,  photo: archive of Museum Kampa
She and her husband Jan subsequently became major collectors of Czechoslovak and Central European art, organising exhibitions in her house in Washington and advancing the country’s cultural reputation abroad.

In 1999 she started a foundation which acquired Sovovy Mlýny, an historic building a few hundred meters from Charles Bridge in Prague, and transformed the building into a thriving art museum.

The head of the foundation, Jan Smetana, says that in her honour, the museum is organising a number of special events this year.

“We have an exhibition called Meda, which is about Mrs. Meda Mládková’s life in the United States and how she influenced the art and cultural spheres here and abroad.

“On September 8, the day of Mrs. Mládková’s birthday, all three buildings of the museum will be open with a full programme featuring guided viewings and art showings. It will also include discussions about her life, films and more.”

Mr. Smetana says there is also an event recreating her iconic Washington parties.

“On July 13 we have an event called Hudeček Kampa, which is based on those parties Mrs. Mládková and her husband used to do in Washington. It will take place in the evening with music and visitors are invited to come dressed up as an artist or an art piece.”

One of the other accompanying shows is a theatre play about Mrs. Mládková’s life, called Meda, which premiers on Monday.

Daniela Šteruská, who worked on the production, explains what its main themes are.

“I focused especially on mapping her personality and her whole life. The play starts when she is 14 years old and ends in the present. I liked the fact that she was formed by her life experiences and through that story we can view her from many different angles. Not just as an art collector and benefactor, but also as a dancer, wife and more.”

The play features a number of top Czech actors, including the Czech Lion holder Tatiana Dyková, known mostly under her maiden name Vilhelmová.