In Memoriam: auction house founder Isadore M. Chait, 74

Isadore M Chait

Isadore M. “Izzy” Chait, 1946-2021. Image provided by the Chait family

LOS ANGELES – Isadore M. “Izzy” Chait, one of the world’s most respected experts on the subject of Asian art and founder of I.M. Chait auction house, has passed away at the age of 74. The Chait family provided the biographical remembrance of Izzy that follows:

From music to art to his family to his wide circle of friends, Izzy’s passion for life knew no bounds. With the heart of a lion and the eye of a tiger, Izzy always knew what he wanted and lived life on his own terms. He had a commanding presence that was felt the minute he walked into a room. Whether through his personalized rendition of a classic song, his spirited marketing of a fine art object, his steadfast advocacy for human rights or his enduring connectedness to friends and family alike, what drove Izzy was making a difference in the lives of others…as long as he did it his way.

“If I can touch one person, making a lasting impression on at least one person in the audience, I know I’ve done my job.” – Izzy Chait

Strong opinions, vibrant attire, intense emotions – Izzy was a wild brew of nature and nurture, oft declaring, “I may not always be right, but I’m never wrong!”

Izzy passed away peacefully surrounded by family in the early morning hours of April 1, 2021, just a few weeks shy of his 75th birthday. Although he suffered a debilitating heart attack in 2014 while competing in a dance competition in San Francisco, Izzy’s intense resolve to recover kept him working, helping, living…and we were blessed with an additional seven years.

Izzy loved a Macallan on the rocks with a twist, Tommy Bahama silk shirts, fighting illiteracy, taking a ride in a classic car, performing in his family band, taking an old standard and singing it his way, showing and selling valuable Asian antiques, and his family…and definitely not in that order.

Izzy was the only child of Kalman and Ethel Chait, Holocaust survivors who escaped Nazi-occupied Poland and made their way by the end of World War II to an American displaced persons camp in Pocking, Germany, where Izzy was born. When Izzy was three years old, his parents moved the family to America, first landing in New Orleans before traveling further west to Southern California to Echo Park, Boyle Heights and ultimately West LA, all by the time he finished elementary school. Speaking Yiddish before ever learning English, Izzy’s childhood was filled with Jewish tradition and teachings, customs which would shape Izzy’s endeavors throughout his life.

Izzy always knew he loved singing. During his teenage “bad boy” years, decked in jeans and a white t-shirt with a pack of Pall Mall cigarettes in his rolled-up sleeve, Izzy performed “Heartbreak Hotel” around the campfire at Camp JCA. Singing in his synagogue’s choir for many years and also with the glee club in school, Izzy’s first major singing gig was after he joined the Marine Corps in 1966. He sang with a little band in Vietnam where “we exchanged songs for beers,” Izzy once recalled.

It was during his military years that Izzy discovered he had an affinity for Asian antiques (along with Eastern philosophy and religion) and he started buying and selling some artifacts as a hobby. Upon his return home from Vietnam, this hobby became a source of income with Izzy concurrently selling Chinese porcelain at swap meets while managing his studies of anthropology and ethnomusicology at UCLA.

What began as a lark became a lifelong labor of love. Izzy’s keen eye for beauty and his aesthetic taste combined with his acute business sense forged a successful career in art and antiquities, ultimately securing his reputation as a celebrated auctioneer at his highly successful I.M. Chait Gallery.

Izzy never forgot his first passion – singing. During his college years, he performed at many clubs around Los Angeles including quite a few piano bars, singing mostly standards. Taking a 25-year break to concentrate on his business, Izzy returned to his music roots in the early 1990s, finally realizing his dream of cutting a record in 2001 when his debut CD “Once Upon A Time” was produced. Izzy would go on to make 10 albums in 11 years, with several of them even receiving Grammy consideration.

Fiercely guided by his internal voice saying, “Work, work, work,” Izzy was equally compelled by his love of family. Although meeting Mary Ann when he was just 13, Izzy’s journey to everlasting love took a few twists and turns. It wasn’t until many years later, when Mary Ann walked into a West Hollywood shop where Izzy was starting his Asian art sales, that the two became inseparable.

With their children, the Chait home was warm and lively (as witnessed by many a friend at the Chait family’s weekly Shabbat dinners), and – at times – unconventional. When Izzy’s business warranted a trip overseas to Asia, the entire family would go, even during the school year. Izzy believed these trips offered a unique type of education, one that his kids would never forget.

Izzy is survived by his beloved wife, sons, granddaughter, and friends too numerous to list but not forgotten.

Honoring a loved one in the time of COVID-19 is challenging. Despite this, we will come together via a virtual Celebration of Life to honor a man who made an impact on so many. The date, time and all pertinent details will be posted online at and at All are welcome to join. For those unable to join, the memorial will be recorded.

In lieu of flowers, the family asks those wishing to remember Izzy instead consider making a donation to their favorite charity. If anyone has a photo, video clip or story of Izzy that they wish to share with the family, please forward it to Jake Chait at Those who wish to send a card via regular mail are asked to address it to Jake Chait, 1410 South Olive St., Los Angeles, CA 90015.

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