'Hitler salute' garden gnomes invade German town
Artist Ottmar Hoerl has already displayed his provocative gnomes in Belgium, Italy and two German art galleries.Berlin -- A German town was bracing Wednesday for a rally by 1,250 garden gnomes with their stubby right arms raised in a Hitler salute -- all in the name of art.
Artist Ottmar Hoerl, who has already displayed his provocative gnomes in Belgium, Italy and two German art galleries, said the display in Straubing in Bavaria was the first one in public in Germany.
"It is a work that is meant to get people to think, to react," he told AFP.
The German artist found himself in hot water with his gnomes in July after prosecutors in Nuremberg launched an enquiry into whether displaying one of the diminutive figures in an art gallery was against the law.
Hitler salutes and Nazi symbols have been illegal in Germany since the end of World War II, but prosecutors accepted Hoerl's argument that the 40-centimetre (15-inch) gnomes were ridiculing the Nazis, not promoting them.
Hoerl, who has designed other, less controversial, public art exhibitions and permanent installations, insisted that had a serious point to make, namely to draw attention to the rise of the far right in Europe.
Hans Lohmeier, Straubing's mayor, told AFP that the gnomes would be guarded around the clock after some "critical voices" about the exhibition, which runs from Thursday until Monday in the town's main square.
The gnomes are also for sale on Hoerl's website -- priced at 45 euros (67 dollars) or signed by Hoerl for 120 euros.