Naomi Wilzig Reigns as Queen of Erotic Art

In honor of our People Issue, which will hit newsstands and computer screens November 24, Cultist presents "Miami Backstage," where we feature some of the city's behind-the-scenes culture makers. Have suggestions for future profiles? Email [email protected] with the whos and whys.

Naomi Wilzig
Twenty years ago, Naomi Wilzig, the curator of South Beach's World Erotic Art Museum (WEAM) reinvented herself, when she went from innocuous antiques collector to ravenous erotic artifact scavenger to the dismay of her late husband, her daughter, and countless uptight nay-sayers. Now, when Wilzig visits antique fairs, the 76-year-old wears cardboard signs around her neck that say "I want erotic art." 

She's not afraid to make her tastes or her opinions heard. Six years after opening her museum, her relentless commitment to her cause has won her

acceptance in the community, and an important place beyond the erotic

art world. 

Besides having just been awarded an honorary doctorate from

The Institute for the Advanced Study of Human Sexuality in the study of

erotic art, Wilzig, an Orthodox Jew, also holds an honorary doctorate

from the U.S. Rabbinical Council for her philanthropy and finances an

entire week of Holocaust education events in Miami Beach each January. 

When we met Wilzig in the office of her museum. she had some bold

words for us.

1. List five things that inspire you.
I'm inspired by beauty, by love, by sensuality, by honesty, by friendship.

2. What was your last big project?

create the museum was a major project in my life. I was at a point

where I had all this art, and what do you do with it? Do you sell it, do

you give it away? So I searched for five years to find a location, and

had been turned down by cities, landlords, politicians, gossips, by all

different things, until finding the location. The biggest accomplishment

of my life, and the most recent thing which was major, was to actually

open the museum. Even though it's six years old, I haven't done anything

to compare to that as an accomplishment.

3. What is your next big project?

we have Rembrandt coming. We want the town to realize --- no, we want

to usurp their wrong attitude that we are a sex place, or that we have

porn here, or that we're scuzzy, or anything else. We are so high class

and cultural, that our next exhibit is going to be Rembrandt. So that's

opening November 29th.

4. Why do you do what you do?

become a passion of my life. It's given my life direction at a point

where you ask, what do you do when you're older? How long can you sit by

a pool and vegetate? Actually collecting the erotic art, and buying it,

and researching it, and displaying it has kept me healthier than I was.

Because I was at a point where I went to my doctor for my annual

checkup, and I had high blood pressure. And he asked if I could

attribute it to any stress. And I said, "Well, I guess I have some

stress. I'm collecting erotic art and I'm about to write a book about

it, and my husband doesn't approve."

And the doctor, who was a religious

Jew also, said, "If that gives you the reason to get up and go each

day, the impetus to welcome that you woke up that day and you have

something to do and some place to go, that is more important for your

health than any pill you can take or anything you can do. So keep on


Students come here to see what

I've done. That's a great sense of accomplishment, to do something for

the community. For awakening people's minds, expanding their education,

and making them realize there's all different lifestyles in the world.

And our sexuality is basic to all people. I feel I'm doing something

important by creating this for people to see.

5. What do you want Miami to know about you?

want them to know they made a mistake. And they put me under constant

pressure to stay here under financial struggle. I've proven myself,

because like all other communities, they turned me down. They misjudged

what I was going to do, and didn't let me into buildings. 


a struggle for me to be here on the second floor [of this building on

Washington Avenue], because [patrons wonder] what are they going up

into? Will somebody accost them? Will they see something unpleasant? How

will they get out if they're upstairs? 

I had

found a wonderful location on Lincoln Road several years ago. But the

planning board said "We want Lincoln Road to stay 'family friendly.' And

we won't approve you there." And as a result, I have a great financial

struggle here, where I would have been a whopping success on Lincoln

Road. They tied my hands before I had a chance to prove that I am

cultural and artistic and that I would never let children in or do

anything to make it non-community friendly.

What don't you want Miami to know about you?

don't know how many people really know that I have had a younger

companion for many years. Twenty-five years younger, for the last 20

years, and he's still around. And it's a biracial relationship. Those

that know it, know it, but most people think he's my bodyguard because

he was a private investigator when I first met him. So in the beginning,

I would introduce him as my bodyguard. But later, I would say, "He

guards my body so no one else comes near it."

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Camille Lamb Guzman is a journalist who writes on wellness, travel, and culture. She is also finishing a book of creative nonfiction.

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