This March, Sotheby’s chose Gaston Lachaise’s 9.5-inch bronze cast of cascading dolphins as its cover lot.
[private_subscriber][private_bundle]As Fig. 14 shows, Lachaise is an artist who sold exceptionally well in the bear market of 2009. In fact, patterns in his market actually looked better than those in every subcategory of the American art market (paintings, drawings and sculpture).
His 2009 success was due in large part to the sale of Acrobat, a 24- inch bronze of a voluptuous woman balancing on one hand that brought $278,500 at Sotheby’s in Q4. The work was only estimated to go for $70,000 to $90,000, and its stellar sale upped Lachaise’s 2009 average price to $36,662—his highest in six years (Fig. 15).
In addition to having the coveted cover spot, Lachaise has an unusual amount of works in the Sotheby’s session (Dolphins is sandwiched between four other Lachaise lots). Since 2005, he has averaged about 10 auction appearances annually, so five in Q1 is a disproportionately high quantity of Lachaise.
But the works do share one important attribute: They all come from private collections. Our Principle Component Analysis of Lachaise’s works (see Appendix for details) reveals that his work’s Provenance Composite Score is the most powerful determinant of value in his market (Fig. 16).
This score, which is based on factors including provenance and exhibition and publication histories, accounts for 30% the variation in Lachaise’s prices. Provenance is followed in importance by subject, medium (his oeuvre also includes drawings), year, size and auction house. So the fact that Dolphins comes from the collection of Mary Warburg, whose husband acquired 11 Lachaise sculptures in the 1930s, should be a boon. The rarity of his dolphin sculptures at auction should also help the lot make good on its $10,000 to $15,000 estimate, which even seems a little cheap considering that Lachaise’s works averaged a mid estimate of $20,243 from 2005 to 2009. [/private_subscriber][/private_bundle]