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Wilzig and company initially tried to display her growing collection elsewhere—most notably in St.Petersburg, Florida, near the Dalí Museum—but city governing bodies regarded the proposal as if the museum were an adult entertainment establishment.If you’re looking for big names, there are works by Rembrandt, Picasso, Dalí, and Mapplethorpe, but the true charm of WEAM lies in the more humble, garden-variety erotica that Wilzig gathered from every corner of the globe.
Similar zoning restrictions and puritanical attitudes have kept erotic art museums few and far between in the United States.Wilzig, who primarily collected fine antiques, had no idea what that meant so, naturally, she embarked on a 15-year quest around the world to find the best erotic art. The resulting collection is an eclectic mix of cultures and times, much like Miami itself.Classical paintings line the main hallways but each room and alcove is built around a different theme or place: Asia, Africa, Central America, the Mediterranean, art nouveau, surreal art, and—because this is Miami Beach, after all—art deco.From the Mediterranean, she obtained Greek, Roman, and Egyptian antiquities including the fertility amulets and figurines that are some of the museum’s oldest pieces.She left no stone unturned—especially the penis-shaped ones, like the revolving 25-pound Brazilian geode that occurred naturally in the unmistakable shape of a circumcised penis.“She wore a sign around her neck in every language you can imagine that said, ‘Buying erotica,” says Harbour of Wilzig’s travels. The museum itself is tucked away in a large former recording studio above The Cabaret South Beach—a “dirty little secret,” Harbour and I agree, in a ZIP Code that’s already full of them.