Nazi-saluting gnomes being probed


BERLIN (JTA) — Nuremberg prosecutors are investigating whether an art exhibit of garden gnomes giving a Nazi salute is against the law.

The "Dance with the Devil" exhibit by Nuremberg art professor Ottmar Horl features an army of gold-painted gnomes.

An outraged visitor to the gallery of Erwin Weigl in Nuremberg triggered the probe with an anonymous complaint suggesting that the figures violate the law prohibiting anti-constitutional symbols. The Heil Hitler salute is banned in Germany unless it is part of an educational, pro-democratic project.

Horl described his work as purely satirical, and reported that he has received many requests for the sculptures from around the world — including from American Jewish collectors — since the controversy erupted.

His work is part of a trend of what some call "transgressive art," designed to break taboos. The trend was given a boost by a New York Jewish Museum exhibit in 2002, called "Mirroring Evil: Nazi Imagery, Modern Art," which included French artist Alain Sechas’ white plastic kittens with Hitler moustaches.

Two years later, in Dachau, Germany,  German-American art professor Walter Gaudnek ran into trouble for displaying cartoon-like works depicting Hitler as a “pop-icon," including swastikas and other Nazi symbols.

Several other similar controversies have popped up in the past few years.

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