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CNN Today

Where Gnomes Roam

Aired April 12, 2000 - 2:53 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: Now to that story we warned you about, about an art exhibit featuring gnomes. It is controversial, and would you believe it is happening in the city of Paris?

LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: And Parisians are having a fit.

Here is CNN's Jim Bittermann.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JIM BITTERMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Ah, Paris, a world capital of culture and art. Here's the new wing at the Louvre Museum, featuring examples of great primitive sculptures from four continents. No one could possibly question the artistic merit of such a tasteful collection.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In the beginning, I was very afraid because I think here that people will hate me.

BITTERMANN: Yet here, on the other side of Paris, questions are everywhere, even in the mind of the curator of the new exhibit that brings together great garden gnomes of the world.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No answers, only some questions about bad taste, about good taste.

BITTERMANN: You could almost read those questions on the faces of the visitors to the French gnome show. After all, one of the more elegant 18th-century properties in the nation has suddenly been overrun with more than 2,000 plastic and ceramic dwarfs of uncertain beauty -- well, uncertain to anyone taller than they. Gnomes are clearly more beautiful when eye to eye with their beholders.

For the serious, adult art connoisseur, the dwarf display is a rich learning experience with explanations of how the little creatures pair off, and marry, and reproduce.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They don't have sex. They don't have any sex.

BITTERMANN: And somehow seem to spring from the ground in some people's front yards.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And you see first the hat, and then the head, and then the body, they come out from the earth.

BITTERMANN: On the historical side, there are displays of the earliest gnomes, dating back to ones horrified Romans might have discovered sprouting from their neighbor's lawns, as well as famous little guys from across the centuries, the sleepy, dopey, and lazy ones, the dangerous ones, the valuable ones. And while the gnome show has won some converts...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, yes, it's real, real art.

BITTERMANN: ... other art lovers reject such a dubious display of garden affection.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't like it.

BITTERMANN (on camera): No?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No, I don't.

BITTERMANN (voice-over): The exhibition's curator, on loan from the Louvre Museum, thinks people may be taking the whole thing a bit too seriously.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My career is finished, but that doesn't matter. There is sun, and there are dwarfs, and I am happy. Everything is OK.

BITTERMANN (on camera): Still, despite the forced smiles, not all is OK here, barely three weeks into the exhibition, raiders from the GGLF, the Garden Gnome Liberation Front, have struck, kidnapping 20 of the gnomes, saying they will only to be released in the seclusion of their natural forest habitat.

(voice-over): Some people clearly believe that no matter what it takes, gnomes which appear in public must be stopped.

Jim Bittermann, CNN, Paris.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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