The museum is housed in the former Sova Mills in the Lesser Quarter. It houses the Jan and Meda Mládek Collection, which contains works by the pioneer of abstract art František Kupka and the Czech Cubist sculptor Otto Gutfreund, as well as the works of prominent artists of the 20th century from the Eastern bloc. The mission of Museum Kampa is to give witness to the difficult times in which said art originated and which should not be forgotten.
January – December
- Whole week
- 10.00 – 18.00
It was this place, where perhaps the first mill in Prague was located. The oldest written mention of mills at Kampa date back to 1393, but mills had clattered here much earlier. Names changed by current owners: in the 15th century it was the St. George Mill, in the end of the 15th century the name changed to the Sova’s Mill, later it was called Severínovský Kosořský and – from 1561 - again Sova’s Mills. Probably in 1850 the name was changed to Odkolkovský Mill. After the Hussite wars Kampa was acquired by the Prague's Old Town, which donated the desolate place to Václav Sova z Liboslavě in 1478 (later he became the Old Town alderman); the place was given to him for the purpose of building the house and mills there. He built a house here, set up mills, hammer with cutting shop, lumber mill, furnace, cloth and tawing mill for tanning hides and other operations. The area included also the farm yard and gardens. His descendants steadily expanded and rebuilt the estate. Gradually, the two-wing main building was built with typical gables that despite many changes still exists. During the Thirty Years War Swedes battered the Old Town from here. The originally Gothic mills were later rebuilt and adapted in the Renaissance style; another reconstruction, which took place around 1836, was done with the assistance of the architect Josef Kranner. After 1850, the mills were acquired by František Odkolek, the entrepreneur, who started a spectacular redevelopment with the assistance of the architect Josef Maličký and the builder František Srnec. In 1862 and 1867 the mill courtyard was rebuilt and the neo-Gothic two-story residential wing was added. Architects Josef Schulz and Josef Zítek participated in the adjustment works. František Odkolek converted the mill to the steam-mill in the American way, so that a tall chimney had to be built here, which marred the skyline. Mills were for centuries threatened by fires and floods. The last major fire engulfed the Odkolek mill in 1896. The burnt out mill became the property of the municipality of Prague and the front part on the bank of the river was demolished in 1920 as a part of river regulation and construction of water outlets; the residential building later became the seat of the Czechoslovak Academy of Science.
There was an idea of the hotel project, which was expected to bring the life back to the building, but it was rejected because of poor access for vehicles. Already at the time between the world wars there had been an idea of building a modern gallery, which however was only implemented recently, when the seat of the unique collection of modern art, especially of the Czech painter František Kupka, was built; the collection was created in the U.S. by the Czech collector Mrs. Meda Mládková together with her husband. The owner donated the collection as a gift to the Czech Republic. In 2000, the reconstruction of Sova’s Mills was started to accommodate this collection according to the project by the Viennese architect Helena Bukovanská. Also the creative team of Václav Cígler, Miroslav Karel, Michal Motyčka and Dana Zámečníková and Miroslav Špaček worked on the project. In the old and dilapidated building imaginative modern gallery spaces have been built, the nature of which has been determined by the modern elements of stainless steel and glass. All areas are connected via the staircase steel construction whereas walkway and railings of the terrace with unforgettable views are made of safety glass. In the courtyard of the area there is an attractive water line with the flowing water that connects the gallery with the river. An artifact in the shape of a giant glass cube in a metal frame was installed on the gallery building with the help of a helicopter. Although conservationists protested against this artifact hindering the view of Prague Castle, the Ministry of Culture permitted the installation. The Czech Jan and Meda Mládek Foundation, which has been created for this purpose, will administer the gallery called Kampa Museum for the next 99 years. The inauguration of the museum was scheduled for September 2002, but due to considerable damages caused by the catastrophic floods in August of that year the deadline was postponed by a year to 15 September 2003. The visual symbol of the museum was a four-meter long and over two tons heavy wooden chair, the work of Magdalena Jetelová, which is placed on a foreland in the river in front of the museum. A tragic flood of 2002 took the chair away. In June 2003, the chair made of poplar wood by Magdalena Jetelová, the work of students of the sculptor Kurt Gebauer, was placed at the same place again. The 6m high chair stayed there till 30 October 2012. Then it had to be taken off due to serious wooden structure damage.
History of the collection
During her studies in Paris in the 1950´s Meda Mládková met František Kupka. She soon understood his fundamental importance for the emergence and development of abstract art. Over time, she gained an extensive collection of his paintings and important studies. In the 1960´s she began to travel to Czechoslovakia, Poland, Hungary and Yugoslavia. She visited studios and bought paintings, sculptures, drawings and prints. Gradually, she created a remarkable collection of works primarily by the generation emerging in the late fifties and early sixties as well as number of younger artists. Meda Mládková exhibited the purchased works in America and elsewhere. Apart from Kupka a large collection of works by Jiří Kolář and the collection of sculptures by Otto Gutfreund form important parts of the collection. Mrs. Mládková exhibited works by Kupka, Kolář and Gutfreund in many important museums and galleries here and abroad. The largest part of the collection was transferred from Washington D.C. to Prague to the newly established Kampa Museum. Also the collection assembled in 1989 for Jindřich Chalupecký has become its part. In 2002, Jiří and Běla Kolářovi dedicated to the Kampa Museum their collection containing mostly 20th century art with emphasis on its second half.