Recently, I got to go to Miami – South Beach, specifically – for the first time ever!!
It was super fun!! I learned about art deco via Ocean Drive and the Miami Design Preservation League, went to the beach in November, and ate a lot of Cuban food. I also, quite serendipitously, got to check out the World Erotic Art Museum, or WEAM as it’s colloquially known.
(pictured: amateur street photography at its finest!!)
Located at 1205 Washington Avenue (duh!!) in the heart of South Beach’s Art Deco Historic Pastel Awesome District, WEAM is pretty unassuming from the street… but the contents therein and the story behind this space are anything but.
The World Erotic Art Museum opened in 2006 after Ms. Naomi Wilzig decided to share her personal collection of erotic art with the public. Naomi is the widow of the late Siggi Wilzig,* a mother and grandmother, and a serious world traveler.
[*Siggi was CEO and President of The Trust Company of New Jersey. He gained international prominence as a founder of the Holocaust Museum in Washington, DC and as the first Holocaust survivor to lecture cadets at West Point – dang!!]
Naomi’s collection contains an extraordinary mix of paintings, sculptures, tapestries, and other… stuff (seriously – stuff) spanning the early days of the Roman Empire through the contemporary pop-culture world. She even has that famous “male prop” sculpture from Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange (1971). You know which one I’m talking about…
(pictured: Ms. Naomi with a rendition of Leda and the Swan)
Anyway, Naomi’s collection has attained serious consideration throughout the world for its historic, as well as artistic, value. According to Naomi: “…These are works of art that illustrate the evolution of erotica, the cultures and the time frames in which they were created. It is a genre of art that is aesthetically important and should be seen as a pathway through history and its cultures.” (quote here)
I couldn’t agree more.
So I began my WEAM adventure one recent evening at about 7 PM. For a mere $15 ($12 for students), patrons get to peruse the space at their leisure. I thought the fee was quite reasonable, especially given the shear amount of erotic art stuff that one gets to gawk at – over 4000 pieces!!
There weren’t many other visitors present during my time at WEAM and the staff on hand (including Ms. Naomi herself!!) were busy setting up the new Rembrandt Erotic Secrets gallery, so I was pretty much left to my own devices. Keeping in mind that I am not very arty at all, here are some of the things I noticed…
1. WEAM is jam packed with stuff!! All of it was fascinating, but occasionally I felt like I was looking at the photo wall in my great-grandmother’s dining room – stuff on top of stuff on top of stuff hidden behind other stuff that was also in cabinets. I liked it, but at times it wasn’t the most user friendly of spaces.
(pictured: map of WEAM)
2. WEAM is sooo eclectic and diverse – from romantic-looking drawings to Native American art to photographs of Marilyn Monroe to devilish-looking figurines to oil painting to pop art to Tom of Finland everything to penis furniture to a bunch of different sexed up versions of Barbie!!
Press materials state that: “On site, patrons travel through time and artistic treasures depicting the biblical era, Greek and Roman mythology, antiquities from Asia, China, Japan, India and Africa. Wilzig notes that three common themes reproduced throughout the centuries are Adam and Eve, Leda and the Swan (a Greek myth of adultery and seduction) and various representations of Satyrs and Nymphs.” (quote here)
I am in no way qualified to assess any of these objects as “art,” but I will say that my sociological eye appreciated the very nuanced vision of eroticism WEAM presented.
3. WEAM is multiplicative!! Sorry for dropping that socio-ism, but WEAM embodies multiple truths and visions of “erotic” in an extremely multifaceted way.
For example, several interesting clusters of art consist of various versions of single motifs, legends, themes, etc. There were clusters if artistic re/interpretations of Leda and the Swan and Lady Godiva (among others). It was fascinating to see how the “faces” of these motifs change over the years, across cultures, and throughout different artistic forms.
(pictured: statue of Leda and the Swan)
4. Racism and race-based stereotypifying have characterized erotic art throughout the ages… or at least throughout the ages represented in this collection.
I was occasionally shocked by the imagery and themes present in many of the pieces. Both problematic and consistent (“consistent” as in ubiquitous), this sociological assessment of a broad historical collection of erotic art reminded me of another piece of “art” I saw/read once and one conclusion contained therein…
See “From ‘The Devil in Miss Jones’ to ‘DMJ6’ – Power, Inequality, and Consistency in the Content of US Adult Films” (Sexualities 2010) for discussion of race, racism, and race-based imagery that can be found in another form of erotic art – porn. And yeah, I totally wrote that ;)
5. There has been all kinds of all kinds of wild sex happening, being imagined, and/or having homage paid throughout the ages… or at least throughout the ages represented in this collection.
Delicate sensibilities be damned and even in the most tame of versions, WEAM reveals that sex “back in the day” was no different than it is today – lusty and wild and diverse and/or lovely and loving and delicate and/or wild or tame or ecstatic or unrequited or dirty and/or both/and and/or both…
You get the idea.
(pictured: back in the day 3-way yesterday)
Now, as usual, there’s no way for me to do this experience justice. There were thousands of things in WEAM to notice, from what was contained in the collection to how each piece was displayed to the folks working and looking therein – there’s no way I could ever get it all. Whatsmore, I most certainly walked nonchalantly by that very thing that may have had you fit to be tied; thus, there’s no way for you to really know what’s going on unless you see for yourself.
And even now, not long after I was physically present, I’m wishing I had a better visual archive of WEAM… because it’s something that needs to be seen to be appreciated and properly reflected upon.
There was, in fact, only one piece of art that visitors were permitted to photograph. This giant gold penis:
(pictured: I totally tried to give this guy a hug, but my arms weren’t long enough – girthy!!)
It was really interesting.
If you’re ever in Miami proper, I highly recommend taking the time to check out the World Erotic Art Museum (WEAM). And if you’re ever in South Beach, it’s an absolute must. Trust me – the sand and be-thonged sunbathers will still be there when you get done.
The World Erotic Art Museum (WEAM) is located on the Mezzanine Level of 1205 Washington Avenue in Miami Beach, Florida. Call them at 866.969.WEAM or 305.532.9336 for more info and/or check out their website at www.weam.com – it’s too racy for American Airlines!!
(pictured: this is my art, and it’s dangerous!!)
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Questions? Comments? Email Dr. Chauntelle!!
Images herein are either maximum iPhone awesome taken by me or were pulled from WEAM’s press site (here).
You may quote anything herein with the following attribution: “Reprinted from Porn Valley Vantage/PVVOnline, copyright © Chauntelle Anne Tibbals, PhD (www.PVVOnline.com).”