Czech art collector Meda Mladkova dies at 102

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Meda Mladkova, pictured in 2012, bought more than 200 paintings by Frantisek Kupka, a pioneer of abstract art (AFP/MICHAL CIZEK) (MICHAL CIZEK)

Czech art collector Meda Mladkova, who supported artists in Communist-ruled Czechoslovakia from exile in Washington during the Cold War era, died aged 102 on Tuesday, her foundation said.

From the 1960s, Mladkova bought works by modern Czech artists suffering under Moscow's rule and organised exhibitions and scholarships for them.

"One of the most remarkable women of our modern history, an extraordinary personality... Meda Mladkova left us today," Jiri Pospisil, head of the Jan and Meda Mladek Foundation, said in a tweet on Tuesday.

Mladkova left Czechoslovakia for Switzerland after the Communists seized power in 1948.

From 1955 to 1960, she studied art history in Paris, where she founded a publishing house and started to collect paintings by her compatriot Frantisek Kupka, who also lived in France.

In 1960, Mladkova moved to Washington with her husband Jan Mladek, an economist working for the International Monetary Fund.

They bought more than 200 paintings by Kupka, a pioneer of abstract art.

In the late 1960s, Mladkova started travelling back to Czechoslovakia and collecting works by local artists to help them survive.

"All her life, she believed the idea that if culture survives, the nation will survive too," said Pospisil.

Mladkova returned to her native country after the totalitarian Communist rule was toppled in 1989.

She donated the entire collection to the city of Prague following her husband's death in the same year.

Mladkova then established the Jan and Meda Mladek Foundation and transformed a historic building in central Prague into the Kampa Museum with a permanent exhibition of Kupka's works.

For her work as an art collector and benefactor, Mladkova became a Commander of the French National Order of Merit in 2012.

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