Naomi Wilzig: Ms. Come Hither
Naomi Wilzig of the World Erotic Art Museum
It doesn't have to have penetration for it to be erotic," explains 77-year-old Naomi Wilzig. She's standing next to an illuminated glass container that covers a white statue of Adam rising from the dust of the earth. "The expression on his face, the come-hitherness, is what makes it erotic."
Wilzig, sporting a grandmotherly pink sweater and brown slacks, is the founder and president of the World Erotic Art Museum — a South Beach gem housed on the second floor of a cavernous, 12,000-square-foot building that was once Luther Campbell's recording studio.
Over the past 15 years, Wilzig has amassed more than 4,000 pieces of erotic art. Some are more lascivious than others: Originals from Picasso's 347 Series hang across from a fiberglass statue of a nude woman with an unnervingly realistic-looking anus and labia. There's the large white phallus used as the murder weapon in the rape scene of A Clockwork Orange and girthy walrus penis bones adorned with hand-carved wolf faces. She speaks knowledgeably about the history of Chinese dildos and can deliver a stirring lecture on the influence of fertility in African erotica.
Born and raised in a conservative Jewish home in New Jersey, Wilzig didn't discover her love of the genre until her 60s. After her husband, an Auschwitz survivor and Jewish banker who wasn't exactly keen on his wife's collection, passed away, she began looking for places to open a museum. Tampa and St. Petersburg didn't want anything to do with it, nor did Orlando — Wilzig's collection includes cartoons of Mickey Mouse and Goofy screwing their brains out — or even Las Vegas. South Beach was a perfect fit, though.
Open-minded and forward-looking, Wilzig has some concerns about how the ease of photo editing and the ubiquity of online porn are affecting our perception of erotica. She prefers Tropic of Cancer to 50 Shades of Grey, a book she hasn't read because there's simply nothing new about women into bondage.
Though the museum, which opened in 2005, operates at a loss, a steady flow of tourists and classes from nearby colleges brings in a few bucks here and there. But she has one hangup about the visits from college classes. "It's always human sexuality classes that come through. There's never a history class or an art class," she says while showing off a Victorian-era painting of a woman blowing up a condom. "This is history. This is art."
Tarell Alvin McCraney | Mitch Glazer >>
Get the ICYMI: Today's Top Stories Newsletter Our daily newsletter delivers quick clicks to keep you in the know
Catch up on the day's news and stay informed with our daily digest of the most popular news, music, food and arts stories in Miami, delivered to your inbox Monday through Friday.