Basel Binge

Get loaded on art while the economy tanks.

Confronted by a crippling economic depression, Franklin Delano Roosevelt knew how to get the good times rolling again.

Just a few weeks into his first term in office, our 32nd president repealed the 18th Amendment with the famous line: "I think this would be a good time for a beer."

With the end of Prohibition, Americans flocked to taverns, rolled up their sleeves for the hard work ahead, and sang "Happy Days Are Here Again."

They're eating it up at the fair.
They're eating it up at the fair.

This year, one might argue that FDR could be tabbed the unofficial patron saint of Art Basel, where despite a ragged economy and bug-eyed anxiety over sales, America's largest arts confab is back merrier than ever and lubricated by free-flowing booze.

Thursday through Sunday, an outpouring of intoxicating world-class exhibits and guerrilla-style events are on tap across town. So much so that you could forgo sleeping the next 100 hours to binge on art and not even come close to imbibing all there is to see and drink.

Get in the mood for a cultural tear by joining us in a chorus of "99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall."

Take one down and pass it around: If you're still wiping the cobwebs from the peepers after a late-night Basel-opening bash, splash some water on the mug Thursday morning and head to the Rubell Family Collection (95 NW 29th St., Miami) for the 8 a.m. skull-cracking opening of the "30 Americans" show. The exhibit showcases 200 works by African-American artists from the Rubell Collection and features names such as Robert Colescott, Renée Green, David Hammons, Barkley Hendricks, Kerry James Marshall, Gary Simmons, Lorna Simpson, Kara Walker, and Carrie Mae Weems.

No bottles of beer on the wall: Okay, so some people don't know how to have fun in the morning, but the day is still young. After lunch Thursday, zip over to the Miami Art Museum (101 W. Flagler St., Miami) and work up a thirst while catching "Objects of Value." The group show offers a frothy brew of artists who approach dollars-and-cents issues while critiquing the market for luxury goods (including art). Some of it highlights anxieties about the global economic meltdown and will give you plenty of provocative imagery to digest while knocking a few back later on.

Go to the store and by some more: So far, the free hooch has proven elusive, and at the Scope Miami art fair, that's not going to change. Open until 7 p.m. Thursday, the fair was set to have a free public bash with live music and complimentary drinks, but plans crashed. Still, Scope and its new sister fair, Art Asia, present some fresh wrinkles in the programming this year. Scope has moved to a new 120,000-square-foot space in midtown Miami (2951 NE First Ave.), and Art Asia has added a new dimension to Basel by featuring works from more than 60 of the world's leading galleries specializing in contemporary Asian art. Both fairs will include more than 135 galleries from 36 countries. Scope has also invited Miami's conceptual tag team Friends with You to spruce up the VIP lounge. Sam Borkson and Arturo Sandoval III, who compose the duo, have created a huge bounce house for adults and kids to get tipsy in, but alas, Scope is bracing for the worst and can no longer afford to splurge on free suds.

Barf one up and bottle it up: Aaron Bondaroff, New York City's "Downtown Don," arrives in time to save the day. He brings his expansive community of artists, musicians, and weirdoes to "It Ain't Fair" at the spanking-new O.H.W.O.W. space (3100 NW Seventh Ave., Miami), Art Basel's unofficial late-night watering hole for the anti-corporate boho set. The joint corrals various teams of artists in a huge multimedia exhibition featuring painting, sculpture, video, and performance from international artists whose work focuses on downtown Manhattan. More than 30 artists will contribute to this exhibition, which will feature a curated outdoor film series and a nightclub in the adjoining space that will include performances by TV Baby and JD Samson, among others. Thursday from 9 p.m. till 2 a.m., Deitch Projects presents "The Gossip After Dark," a performance of karaoke, video, and bizarre hilarity plus special guest DJs, with — natch — complimentary cocktails by Campari and Grolsch. Yeah, baby!

67 bottles of beer on the wall: Whew, Friday arrives in a blur. This morning, stumble over to CiFo (1018 N. Miami Ave., Miami) for a 9 a.m. brunch and catch a knockout look at the ways artists respond to the exercise of power in contemporary life. "The Prisoner's Dilemma: Selections from the Ella Fontanals-Cisneros Collection" confronts and examines issues of powerlessness, transcendence, warfare, and protest in a world spiraling out of control.

No bottles of beer: While you're in Wynwood, hit some of the fairs. Pulse Miami, Art Miami, and the Red Dot fairs are among the many rollicking tent shows peppering the gritty nabe and featuring dozens of galleries under one roof. The best bet for those on a budget, however, is the crowd magnet NADA (1400 N. Miami Ave., Miami), where the entrance is free. The fair, known for a heady mix of contemporary art talent and free daily performances, will house 88 emerging galleries from 19 countries. It's an inviting oasis in the midst of the unrelenting Basel hoopla.  

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