Thursday, February 2, 2012

Erotica and Art in Paradise

Imagine a place where sex isn’t taboo. Where words like cunnilingus, fellatio, coitus, and orgy are not only common, but spoken with reverence and respect. Where men and women from every cultural background, and with every sexual inclination, stand side-by-side without fear of judgment and disgrace. And where images of sexual freedom and abandon aren’t referred to as pornography but are, instead, proclaimed as art.

Imagine if that place could be right here in South Florida.

Now stop imagining. Because it is.

Nestled amid the cafés, boutiques, and touristy souvenir shops of Washington Avenue, and within a stone’s throw of the Wolfsonian design museum, the World Erotic Art Museum is a hidden garden of earthly delights.

Open since October 2005, WEAM’s 12,000 square feet of exhibition space houses approximately 4,000 paintings, prints, posters, etchings, sculptures, tapestries, and ordinary household objects, like tea pots and coffee tables, all depicting images related to sex—every kind, every culture, every era. From Adam and Eve to Leda and the Swan to Catherine the Great, Josephine Baker, and Marilyn Monroe; from primitive terracotta figurines to colorful Art Deco prints; and from vague, suggestive Renaissance paintings to full-size, anatomically correct sculptures that make you wish you could “join in,” there is literally something for every taste.

Every object has been hand-picked and purchased by Naomi Wilzig, WEAM’s owner/founder and author of—among other things—five stunning books on her personal erotic art collection, including Forbidden Art: The World of Erotica. (She’s also the widow of Siggi B. Wilzig, an Auschwitz survivor and founder of the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C.) “Miss Naomi,” as she’s known to friends and colleagues, was on hand during my visit, and she was as warm and personable as I’d expect a collector of erotic art to be. When it comes to sex, she wisely states, “None of us would be here without it.”

For me, a little over an hour wasn’t nearly enough time to peruse the ancient fertility totems, detailed Japanese watercolors, and the most impressive set of primitive dildos I’ve ever seen. (Of course, since I’d never seen ANY primitive dildos, I was poised to be easily impressed.) There were oil paintings of beautiful, voluptuous women; ornate porcelain figurines of historical and mythological characters; satirical drawings of monks doing unspeakable things to nuns (and vice-versa); replicas of erotically-inspired furniture owned by royalty; and, yes, there were penises and vaginas. Lots of them. Not “real” ones, of course. But the collection has them in every shape and size.

If I had to choose a favorite piece—and don’t hold me to it, because I’ll likely change my mind a hundred times before this issue goes to press—I’d have to say the gargantuan four-poster bed that German artist (and, believe it or not, full-time roofer) Dieter Sporlander created out of Ybraryo wood. At first glance, each of the posts appear to be simply giant phalluses (which, in and of themselves, got my attention). But, upon closer scrutiny, there are actually 138 scenes from the Kama Sutra painstakingly carved into the structure. It was beautiful! It also looked quite sturdy--although my husband and I refrained from personally testing that particular attribute.

On our drive home, we compared favorites and first impressions, and my husband said if he had to sum up the exhibition in one word it would be “tasteful.” I couldn’t agree more. Had any one, single piece been discovered at a friend or relative’s house, it might well have come across as offensive. Or, at least, questionable. (Well, what would YOU think if you found a bronze sculpture of an aroused centaur groping a nude woman on your aunt’s dining room table?) But together, displayed in well-lit cases, and surrounded by rich history and the knowledge that sex and erotic art are as much a part of our world heritage as an Old Masters painting or the Rosetta Stone, the experience was life-affirming.

Sex is as essential to life and well-being as food, water, and oxygen. It’s easy to forget that when you live in a country governed and largely-influenced by Puritanical conservatives. But remember, they’re breeding—and therefore fucking—too. Even if they won’t openly admit it. And as long as there’s an interest in procreation, artists will be inspired to create erotic art, and the rest of us will be inspired to demand it. Thankfully, there are angels like Miss Naomi who have the vision and fortitude to gather it up and make it available to us.

I just wish we could have taken that bed for a test drive.

~ Dawn


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The World Erotic Art Museum is located at 1205 Washington Avenue in Miami Beach, and it’s open 7 days a week, including holidays, from 11:00 a.m. to midnight. No one under 18 is admitted. Cost is $15 and worth every penny. For more information, call 866-969-WEAM or 305-532-9336, or visit their website at http://www.weam.com/.

ATTN: Kid Rock 'Chillin' the Most' Cruisers and anyone in South Florida looking for a good party! Join me at WEAM on Wednesday, April 25, from 4p to 6p, for a CKR/CTM Pre-Cruise & Book Party. Details on Facebook are right **HERE**. See you there!

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