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Just a few weeks into his first term in office, our 32nd president repealed the 18th Amendment with the famous line: "I think this would be a good time for a beer."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."
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.
Take one down and pass it around: After catching a nap, mosey over to Basel's beachside Art Positions "container village" at Collins Park between 21st and 22nd streets, which houses 20 top-drawer upstart galleries. The village will also feature performances including Christian Jankowski in "Above All, I'm an Artlover" Friday at 8 p.m. Jankowski will riff on the evils of consumerism and art, in a production that will be something like an art market Home Shopping Network.
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1,700 bottles of beer on the wall: At Fountain Miami (2505 N. Miami Ave., Miami), organizers aren't messing around. The guerrilla-style event, named for Marcel Duchamp's urinal, is back for its second year. Veteran Baselites will fondly remember the fair's deadly absinthe bar last year. This year, organizers have switched to Dos Equis beer, with 70 cases on tap to quaff the most discerning art palate. Chase a cold one down with some of the headiest art in town Friday from 7 p.m. to midnight during its official artist reception.
Give the liver a break until sundown: It's Saturday afternoon and by now your tongue feels like one of Joseph Beuys's felt pieces, and your bowels are rumbling. It's time for a laxative and a visit to the Museum of Contemporary Art (770 NE 125th St., North Miami) to clear the air. MoCA will premiere "Anri Sala: Purchase Not by Moonlight," featuring seven of Sala's films from the late Nineties to the present. There will also be photographs and sculptures related to space and time. The exhibit marks the first major U.S. museum show of the Albanian artist's work. If a gabfest is what you crave instead, the Wolfsonian (1001 Washington Ave., Miami Beach) will host a design marathon called "Five Minutes of Designed Freedom" from 1 to 5 p.m., during which 35 artists and designers will take up the mike and yak for five minutes to celebrate freedom of expression. The event will honor Dutch designer Wim Crouwel, and a multimedia performance by Elliot Earls will follow.
Rush for the last few bottles of beer on the wall: Sundown arrives with Wynwood's galleries opening at 7 p.m. for their annual Basel Bash. Nearly a hundred spaces will feature their show ponies in eye-popping exhibits that are hands down among the best you'll experience all year. Locust Projects (105 NW 23rd St., Miami) is celebrating its 10th anniversary from 7 to 11 p.m. with "Inevitable Continuum," an exhibit representing the cross section of innovative sculpture, drawing, painting, installation, digital media, and mural projects — many site-specific — for which the pioneering nonprofit has become known. A few blocks away, "Kill Your Idols/Punk Is Everything" is a head-rattling show that pairs compelling photography by Eileen Polk with original punk flyer/poster art from the collection of Bryan Ray Turcotte. Open until 2 a.m., the event, located at 3852 N. Miami Ave., includes live performances by cutting-edge artists such as Matt & Kim, Reigning Sound, Pink Reason, and others. A visual and audio smorgasbord for the senses, it will leave you waking up the next day with a nasty hangover from all the booze and noise.
No more broken bottles of beer, please: After blowing a tire leaving Wynwood, you admit it's time to cry uncle and say enough is enough. Face it — this is the point when even a jolly FDR would put a kibosh on the boozing for the sake of homeland security. Sunday is the last chance to hit the Miami Beach Convention Center and catch the elite 220 galleries from across the globe. A sure cure for the hangover might be all the Botoxed Basel sourpusses moaning about how sales sucked. As FDR would say: Happy days are here again!