Editorials

Atlanta Must Reads for the Week: A missing Marietta woman, a sperm donor’s secret, and the Panama Papers’ Atlanta connection


Atlanta Must Reads for the Week: A missing Marietta woman, a sperm donor’s secret, and the Panama Papers’ Atlanta connection

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Doug DeLoach for ArtsATL on Atlanta’s new guard of arts leaders

In recent months, the High Museum of Art, Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, and Atlanta Ballet have all welcomed new directors. In addition, changes have taken place at the Atlanta Opera and will soon occur at the Alliance Theater. With this unprecedented turnover, DeLoach examines the potential impact of having new leadership at the city’s largest arts institutions:

In the last few months, new directors have taken the reins at three of the five core arts institutions in Atlanta: Rand Suffolk at the High Museum of Art, Jennifer Barlament at the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra (ASO) and Gennadi Nedvigin at Atlanta Ballet. Tomer Zvulun is in only his third year as director of the Atlanta Opera (his predecessor, Dennis Hanthorn, resigned in July 2012 after serving as general director for eight years). For the 2018-19 season, Susan Booth, artistic director of the Alliance Theater since 2001, will stage performances in a completely redesigned, state-of-the-art facility.

It’s impossible to portend what this sweeping, even unprecedented, turnover in leadership of Atlanta’s institutions will mean for the city. But it is obvious change is afoot and that new leadership will bring in new ideas and help shape Atlanta’s cultural landscape for years to come. It also presents an opportunity to redefine and elevate the city’s standing as a major metropolitan arts center.

“It’s kind of amusing that now, after three years, I’m a veteran general director [in town],” said Tomer Zvulun. “Not only the High Museum, the Atlanta Symphony, Atlanta Ballet but also the Cobb Energy Centre just lost its managing director and is looking for a new person. That’s a major, major change. From 2008 to 2012, the arts took a huge hit. And in the past three years, there has been a renaissance or reinvention of the arts. People in Atlanta are coming back, but they want to see something new and different.”

Christine Hauser for the New York Times on a sperm donor lawsuit

What happens when the sperm donor you chose has a 160 IQ and a genetic predisposition to schizophrenia that you didn’t know about? Hauser writes about a series of lawsuits filed against an Augusta sperm bank that allegedly withheld information about a donor:

When Angela Collins and her partner wanted to have a child, they reached out to a sperm bank in Georgia to look for potential donors. They thought they had found the perfect match in Donor 9623, described as a man with an I.Q. of 160 who was healthy and working toward his Ph.D.

But in 2014, about seven years after Ms. Collins gave birth to their son, she and her partner, Elizabeth Hanson, made an upsetting discovery after learning the man’s identity through a donor sibling group. The donor had a history of mental illness and a criminal record, and had exaggerated his educational accomplishments, they say.

“It was like a lead ball went to the bottom of our stomach for both my partner and I,” Ms. Collins said in a radio interview last week with “As It Happens” on the Canadian network CBC. She added, “We know nobody is perfect, but we didn’t sign up to choose knowingly that our donor had schizophrenia.”

Carrie Battan for the New Yorker on a decade of viral dance moves
Battan looks back on a decade of the Stanky Legg, the Dougie, the Whip/Nae Nae, and other viral dance sensations—some of which had metro Atlanta origins. Don’t miss the original video of dancers recreating those viral moves too:

Infectious dance crazes have a long history, but in recent years they’ve been stripped of premeditation and formality. Thanks to social media, short videos of these dances—sometimes incidentally—spread quickly and inspire a rash of copycats. At once silly and profound, these dance phenomena demonstrate the speed at which something can unexpectedly go from being an inside joke among friends (often teen-agers in cities) to a universal dog whistle for joy. The moves land in locker rooms and on late-night talk shows, and they enliven Presidential campaigns. (Even Hillary Clinton has dabbed.) For the past decade, these dances have formed a universal language recognizable by anyone with a pulse and a Wi-Fi connection. They can please your grandmother, but they also thrill seasoned performers, like the U.C.L.A Bruins gymnast Sophina DeJesus, who made a splash by sprinkling in viral-dance moves during a floor-exercise routine at a February meet.

DeJesus and her Bruins teammates appear in the video above, which offers a tour through a decade of viral dances, based on the approximate year they caught everyone’s attention. Also featured here are students from the Ron Clark Academy, who can pull off the viral dances that were popular when they were babies, and members of Dragon House and ChapKIDZ, from Atlanta and the Bay Area, respectively, both hubs of dance innovation. Chrybaby Cozie and Swagga, New York dancers affiliated with the Litefeet movement, perform on the Harlem basketball court where the Chicken Noodle Soup was popularized. But these dances aren’t percolating just on the streets. Natasha Adorlee Johnson, of the San Francisco dance company O.D.C., demonstrates her acrobatic familiarity with many of the moves. Each dancer brings his or her own spin, but all are animated and united by the often neglected pursuit of pure elation.

Scott Reyburn in the New York Times on the Panama Papers’ Atlanta connection

The Panama Papers have revealed much about the business dealings of the world’s most influential people. One of those revelations is a newfound insight about the inner-workings of the international art market. According to Reyburn, British billionaire currency trader Joe Lewis, an investor in the St. Regis Atlanta and its fine-dining restaurant Atlas, created a shell company to “flip” art in a way that treated Picasso paintings more like fluctuating pork belly prices:

The papers reveal that a collection of modernist masterpieces assembled by Victor and Sally Ganz, a Manhattan couple, and auctioned for $206.5 million at a landmark sale at Christie’s in New York in 1997, was not actually sold by their family, but by a British financier who had secretly bought it months earlier. According to Mossack Fonseca documents, the British billionaire currency trader Joe Lewis—or rather, one of his shell companies—was the seller at the auction, apparently in some kind of partnership with Christie’s. It was all a massive “flip,” a quick resale that was early, if undisclosed, evidence of just how much art was being treated like a commodity

The event set a high for any single-owner collection at auction, ushering in a new era of blockbuster prices for trophy art. The question is whether people would have paid as much if they had known that the art was not fresh from the estate of two connoisseurs who had spent half a century scouring galleries for gems by artists like Picasso, Jasper Johns and Frank Stella. “To ‘flip’ an entire collection of that quality is unprecedented,” said the art adviser Wendy Goldsmith, who was Christie’s director of 19th-century European art in London at the time and was unaware of the auction house’s arrangement with Mr. Lewis. “It was an icon of estate sales, a milestone in pricing. Bidders were buying the Ganz provenance.”

Picasso’s “The Dream,” a 1932 painting of a sleeping Marie-Thérèse Walter, soared to $48.4 million. His 1955 “Women of Algiers (Version ‘O’),” advertised with a high estimate of $12 million, went for $31.9 million. (Even at that price, it was a sound investment. The work sold at Christie’s last year for $179.4 million.) As revealed by The Guardian, more than 100 works from the 118-piece collection, including those two Picassos, had been bought months earlier for $168 million by Simsbury International Corporation, an entity controlled by Mr. Lewis. The corporation was in some kind of arrangement with Spink, a subsidiary of Christie’s that is now defunct. At that time, the auction house was publicly listed, and Mr. Lewis was its biggest shareholder.

Tom Junod in Esquire on a missing Marietta woman

In his last piece for David Granger, Esquire’s longtime editor who was recently ousted from the magazine, Junod—a former Atlanta Magazine writer—tells of a mother’s agonizing search for her daughter:

“Look out the window and tell me what you see,” Lisa Daniels says. We are at a barbecue restaurant in Kennesaw, Georgia. There is a window in the back of the dining room. “Woods,” I say. “Well, that’s not what I see,” Lisa says. “I see a place where my daughter could be.”

It is January 8, 2015. Four hundred and eighty-two days ago, Lisa’s daughter Tiffany Michelle Whitton was caught shoplifting at a Walmart in Marietta, about twelve miles from where Lisa sits eating lunch. At two o’clock in the morning on Friday, September 13, 2013, Tiffany ran into the parking lot and disappeared. She was twenty-six then; she is twenty-seven now, three weeks shy of her twenty-eighth birthday, and that’s still how Lisa most often refers to her—in the present tense. Tiffany is outgoing, passionate, headstrong; she loves children and old people; “she has never met a stranger.” Tiffany is also a drug addict who makes a lot of bad choices. Though Lisa has been told to accept, as a probability, that Tiffany is dead, she will not believe that Tiffany belongs to the past until she turns up as a body.

But there are a lot of bodies in the world, and a lot of world in which to hide them. “You’d be surprised,” she says. She reads about them in the paper. She hears about them on TV. Her friends—or total strangers—tell her about them on Facebook. A dog brings what appears to be a human bone home to its master; a skull is found with two capped teeth; a hunter unearths human remains in Paulding County. She follows up on all of them. She has no choice but to follow up on all of them. “I called Paulding County,” she says. “They asked me when Tiffany disappeared. I told them and they said, ‘It’s not her. These are skeletal remains.’” This is Lisa’s life now.

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