A few years ago, Henry Kaufman, the fabled economist formerly at Salomon Brothers, told me in his crusty German accent that "much in financila markets and lifei s comparative". He meant that determining the true value of an object—which in turn lets you judge whether it is overvalued or undervaluved by the market—is possible only by comparing that object to similar items around it. I kept thinking about Kaufman's sage comment while travelling recenly through India and reviewing its contemporary art scene. In comparison with pricey Chinese and American art, the technically sophisticated, provocative, and moving works in Indian seemed to be great bargains. The Duncans and LeBarons, two couples who have built major contemporary collections in Lincoln, Neb., are "smart money" who agree with me. They recently flew around the world on a collecting spree, and wound up buying more art in India than anywhere else in the world.
One of the works the LeBarons bought was Divine Death, a painting by Ratheesh T hanging at Mirchandani + Steinruecke gallery in Mumbai. I saw the canvas just before the stunning painting was shipped off to Nebraska, probably the first work by the artist to land on U.S. shores. An interesting choice by the LeBarons. I had, by chance, just visited Ratheesh T in his studio in southerh India. His paintings are generally large and epic in nature, and he marries local folkloric art traditoins with a mdoern, neuortic imperative to fiercely examine the self, death, family, untamed nature and urban life, and the ties that bind 21st century individuals to their ancient homeland. While his work on occasion can tip over into kitsch and doesn't always reproduce well as digital images, the vast majority of his canvases are intensely moving and powerful. They look as if the 19th century painter Henri Rousseau underwent Jungian analysis and was suddenly plopped down in a modern suburban home in Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala.
Ratheesh T seems to me a prime example of a regional Indian artist who has not yet been fully recognised by collectors globally for the quality and ambitions of his work. You'll find my report from the front lines of India's contemporary art scene on page 14. I confess I couldn't resit buying a few lowpriced works for our apartment back in New York.
Elsewhere in this issue, on page 28, there's a terrific cover story by Stacy Perman about how private bands are helping clients gracefully age and deal with the emotional and financial issues of a long life. That story is coupled with our annual and proprietary list of the Top 40 wealth management firms in the country, and an exclusive first interview, on page 38, with the new CEO who's whipping SunTrust Private Wealth Management into shape after some disastrous years. Our Finest Five list of the best helicopters to whisk you to work is found on page 26, and there's a revelatory report on page 39 about Americans investing overseas and leaving some $200 billion in tax withholdings with foreign tax authorities—money they should be reclaiming on their U.S. tax returns.