Published: June 3, 2015
NEW YORK CITY – Allan Stephen Chait, a leading dealer in Chinese art who exerted a quiet but forceful authority in the antiques field, died on June 3. Chait, who had been in declining health since suffering a fall in 2014, was 85.
Chait was president of Ralph M. Chait Galleries, a firm founded by his father in 1910. The business moved to Manhattan’s Crown Building last year and continues under the direction of Chait’s sons Andrew and Steven.
Of his father’s career, Andrew said, “The highlights for him were having the opportunity to learn the business at the side of his father and sister, and certainly having the opportunity to work with great collectors and collections.” Private and institutional clients ranged from Nelson Rockefeller and Winston Guest to the Nelson-Atkins, Peabody Essex and Philadelphia museums.
Chait joined New York’s Winter Antiques Show in 1960. As founding chairman of the exhibitors’ committee in the late 1980s, he demonstrated his talent for leadership when a dispute arose between dealers and management over the show’s character and content. A man of sterling character and great integrity, Chait was fearless and effective in the role, qualities that earned him the lasting admiration of his colleagues.
“Management thought he was mild-mannered. What they did not know was that he was a former marine,” Andrew Chait recalled. A veteran of the Korean War, Chait served as a marine sergeant between 1951 and 1953.
“Allan’s expert guidance led to establishing the Winter Antiques Show’s vetting practices in the 1990s, and he served for years as vetting committee chairman. Courtly and kind, Allan was an exemplary exhibitor as well as a generous, gracious colleague and mentor,” noted Catherine Sweeney Singer, the show’s executive director.
An authority on porcelain, works of art and silver, Chait was a former president of the National Antiques and Art Dealers Association of America (NAADA) and was named by President George H. W. Bush to the United States Cultural Property Advisory Committee.
In addition to his sons, Chait is survived by his wife of 58 years, Jocelyn; his daughter, Madeleine; and six grandchildren. He was predeceased by his sister, Marion Chait Howe.
A memorial to Chait is planned for Friday, June 5, at 1 pm at Temple Emanu-El, Fifth Avenue at 65th Street in New York. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Temple Emanu- El Philanthropic Fund, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), or the Jewish National Fund (JNF).
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