Art dealers and collectors Madeleine Chalette (1915-1996) and Arthur Lejwa (1895-1972) opened the Galerie Chalette in New York on 45 West 57th Street in February, 1954. The gallery originally specialized in contemporary French graphics and later shifted its focus to contemporary twentieth century European and American art, particularly the work of Jean Arp. Over the years, Galerie Chalette relocated twice. In 1957, the gallery moved to 1100 Madison Avenue and then to 9 East 88th Street in 1964.
Madeleine Chalette was born in 1915 in Paris and grew up in Poland. In 1940, after Madeleine's efforts to secure the release of her father, Leon Chalette, from Sachsenhausen concentration camp near Berlin were successful, father and daughter traveled by boat to Shanghai. They stayed in Shanghai throughout World War II, arriving in the United States in 1946. Arthur Lejwa, a Polish-born biochemist, immigrated to the United States in 1939 and taught at Long Island University. In 1947, Madeleine and Arthur Lejwa were married in Cincinnati, Ohio, where Arthur was the Director of the Robert Gould Institute for Nutritional Research.
The gallery was very active in the 1950s and 1960s, as evidenced by the numerous exhibitions. Many of the exhibitions in the 1950s were thematic. Exhibitions in the 1960s were mostly organized around the work of a particular artist, such as Wojciech Fangor and Leon Polk Smith. In 1972, the Metropolitan Museum of Art showcased Jean Arp's work from the Lejwa's collection and a few works lent by Arp's widow, Marguerite Arp. The exhibition was expanded and traveled as "Arp 1877-1966," first exhibited at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum and then shown in seven museums in the United States and six in Australia.
In the early 1970s, the Lejwas began supporting institutions in Jerusalem, including donating a 17th century Polish menorah to The Israel Museum and five sculptures to be displayed in public spaces: "The Threshold of Jerusalem" by Jean Arp, "The Loop" by Robert Engman, George Rickey's "Two Lines Oblique," "The Skedion Ekton" by Stephanie Scuris, and "Four Cubes Cut in Identical Halves" by Max Bill.
Following Arthur's death on October 27, 1972, Madeleine continued as an independent dealer and consultant and renamed the business Chalette International. In the 1980s, Madeleine Lejwa continued her philanthropic endeavors in Jerusalem, donating to a scholarship fund for Arab students. She was also a strong supporter of New York University's archeological site Aphrodisias, in southwestern Turkey. In the 1970s and 1980s, Lejwa traveled widely including Israel, Jordan, Egypt, Italy, Turkey, Japan, and China. Madeleine passed away at age 81 on June 9, 1996.