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February 15, 2000 04:11pm
Canada government defends Paris Call Girl exhibit
Source: Reuters

(OTTAWA, CANADA) -- The Canadian government on Tuesday defended an art exhibit it has put on in Paris in which actresses pose as prostitutes and engage in erotic conversations with visitors.

Foreign Minister Lloyd Axworthy described the interactive exhibit's designer, Nadine Norman, as ``a very distinguished artist'' and said the government would not interfere in the decisions of artists.

``It's not for me to engage in judgment as to what's good art or culture,'' he told journalists in Ottawa.

His department paid about C$35,000 ($24,000) to stage the ``Call Girl'' exhibit at the government's Canadian Cultural Center in the French capital, which until February 29 will look more like a brothel than an art gallery. A further C$15,000 came from the Canada Council for the Arts.

News about the exhibit -- which began on December 17 -- surfaced this month in Canada in the midst of a controversy about financial mismanagement of billions of dollars of public grants.

The daily Ottawa Citizen newspaper ran a front-page headline ``Your Tax Dollars at Work'' over a photo of a scantily clad ``call girl.''

``I think every Canadian would agree that this is the wrong priority for our money to be spent,'' opposition Reform Member of Parliament Diane Ablonczy told reporters.

But a spokesman in Axworthy's department, Patrick Riel, enthused: ``Mrs. Norman's creation is a huge success. The London Times called the show one of the most successful exhibitions in Paris.''

The department's website describes the show as ``playing on interchange, the unexpected, desire, deception, surprise, availability and the forbidden.''

The Canada Council for the Arts is an arm's length agency of the Canadian Heritage Department, which has run into criticism over grants to fund porn film Bubbles Galore and to a publisher to print books on communicating with the dead and enjoying an orgasm.

($1=$1.46 Canadian)

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