This afternoon, news spread on social media of the passing of Naomi Wilzig, the founder of the World Erotic Art Museum (WEAM) in Miami Beach. She died in Miami at the age of 80 last night in her sleep.
Naomi's son Ivan Wilzig confirmed the news on Facebook: "With the heaviest of hearts I must inform all of you that have known and loved... that Naomi Wilzig, our beloved mother... and grandmother, passed away peacefully in her sleep last night."
WEAM confirmed the news when New Times asked for a statement this afternoon.
"I feel like the luckiest man alive — certainly the luckiest son — to have had a mother who genuinely cared for people and made them happy, always putting others before herself," said Ivan Wilzig to New Times over the phone. "I'm proud that against all odds she helped the world become more loving and through art helped it be a better place."
Wilzig was most famously known as the founder of WEAM, the quirky and risqué museum devoted to all things erotic and sexy. The 12,000-square-foot space on Washington Avenue is home to more than 4,000 pieces of erotic art.
According to a 2012 New Times profile, Wilzig was born and raised in a conservative Jewish home in New Jersey. She 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.
Wilzig is survived by her children — Ivan Wilzig, Alan Wilzig, and Sherry Izak — and her grandchildren — Jonathan Izak, Jesse Izak, Siggi Wilzig, and Winni Wilzig. Funeral services will be held Thursday at King Solomon Memorial Park in Clifton, New Jersey.