World Erotic Art Museum Celebrates Black History Month and Josephine Baker

Categories: Art
The World Erotic Art Museum (WEAM) is a local treasure. There is no better city to combine art and eroticism, and no better erotic art collection than what is housed in this obscure space nestled in the heart of South Beach on Washington Avenue. When visiting the WEAM, you may encounter 2,500-year-old Egyptian sex toys, 1,000-year-old erotic Asian tapestries, and art from almost every major movement up to today.

That's not even including the murder weapon from A Clockwork Orange, in addition to Madonna, Betty Page, and Marilyn Monroe tributes. In celebration of Black History Month, the WEAM is proud to present a special opening gala tomorrow night and month-long exhibit celebrating the life and work of Josephine Baker.  We spoke with Art Director David Tamargo about the pending event and the role the WEAM plays in the community.

New Times: Tell us about tomorrow night's event.

David Tamargo: The World Erotic Art Museum and AllianceFrancaise South Florida will celebrate Josephine Baker, the legendary French entertainer who danced at the Follies Bergere becoming the "Toast of Paris' as well as one of the world's most beloved activists in search of equal rights.  Highlighting the opening reception at 7 p.m., we will feature performance art by famed entertainers Adora and the extraordinary Mary Trini as Josephine Baker.

What does the exhibition include?

Held annually by owner-curator Naomi Wilzig to honor Black History Month, the month-long exhibit at the museum will once again spotlight an extensive exhibit of Josephine Baker's films, posters, and art created as an homage to her beauty and talent by many of the world's greatest artists.
Why Josephine Baker?

Long before she was to become internationally famous via her provocative "Banana Dance" as the star of the "Folies Bergere," "La Baker," as she was soon to be known, had experienced a dismal childhood as she fought and resisted racial bigotry and segregation. It was in September 1915 when at 19 she left New York for France where she was soon to become fairly worshiped by international audiences. She later added to her extraordinary worldwide mystique as a fearless opponent of oppression who risked her life for the French Resistance during WW II.

She stood beside Dr Martin Luther King while he gave his famous "I Have a Dream" speech and was asked by Coretta Scott King to lead the American civil rights movement after his assassination. In the museum, we have on display correspondence letters between Baker and Dr. King noting the significance of their actions on the world fight against racism.

Why is Josephine Baker important to Miami?

Her story is inspiring to all. It's important to understand the risks and position a female black entertainer at that time took in ending segregation and her struggles during World War II against oppression. Miami being a melting pot for so many South American and Caribbean countries, many of them with their own political and social-economic shortfalls, learning that she was born into a destitute situation and rose to such heights can help many people understand how it just takes one person to make a positive difference in history and continues to do so today.

Why is the WEAM important to Miami?

In Miami, we have more contemporary and modern art than anything else with what seems to be a real lack of emphasis of a survey of how or why many cultures created art. At WEAM we focus on the uses of erotic art around the world from as early as 500 B.C. to contemporary.

The fact that Naomi Wilzig compiled the greatest collection of erotic art herself speaks volumes to her dedication to providing a cultural education for a multinational city such as Miami Beach that gets a disproportionate share of tourists.  Miami lacks a private or public institution dedicated to educating our community on the use of art over the course of centuries.

How does it relate to other Miami museums or institutions?

Sure you can find an Egyptian mummy show when a local museum finds one in the corner of its old warehouse, but at the World Erotic Art Museum we have a permanent collection on display of over 4000+ objects that are constantly rotating and educating the public on many relevant issues to modern society such as the use of objects to express the ideals and behaviors of a people such as the  worldwide acceptance, depiction of homosexuality, sexuality, and fertility as a means to strengthen a civilization, and the historical figures like Lady Godiva and Catherine the Great.

Tomorrow's opening recpetion costs $15 general admission, $12 Alliance Francaise members, and is free for WEAM members. Call 305-532-9336 or visit

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very cool i was just looking up some clips of gypsy rose lee. very excited about this.thanks

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