From a drug-filled coffin at a satellite fair to a naked artist lying in the mud with a pair of hogs in a local gallery window, the tenth-anniversary edition of Art Basel featured plenty of weird art to compete with the high-priced masterpieces at the Miami Beach Convention Center. But if there was one artist this past December whose opus raised the bar on headline grabbing, it was Yishay Garbasz's cringe-inducing installation at the Seven Art Fair. The Israeli-born, Berlin-based artist typically explores issues of gender in her work. At Seven, the Bard College-educated photographer presented an arresting suite of self-portraits snapped over the course of a year documenting her gradual transformation through surgery and hormone treatment from man into woman. The powerful pictures, exploring a typically taboo subject, were visceral and compelling in their honesty. But what left tongues wagging was the artist's display of her post-op testicles floating in a jar.

Nestled behind a building housing a barbershop, bakery, dollar store, and tattoo parlor, the unusually configured 6th Street Container has become a hotbed of provocative exhibits far from Wynwood's increasingly commercial spaces. Since opening the space about two years ago, chief curator Adalberto Delgado and director Maria Amores have organized a steady stream of monthly shows featuring seamlessly curated solo and group exhibits notable for their unexpected, experimental nature. This past season, some of the indie art house's offerings included Cat Del Buono's "Vanity Unfair," which skewered the Magic City's obsession with unattainable notions of beauty, and Alma Leiva's En la Celda (Inside the Cell), a site-specific installation evoking political terror in Honduras. For their project "Dome Drift," a cerebral work by the collaborative team of Cristina Molina and Wes Kline, the duo used both the interior of the 6th Street Container and parts of its sprawling courtyard for their exploration of Buckminster Fuller's geodesic dome and its enduring impact on culture and architecture. Last year, the modest Little Havana space was a Knight Arts Challenge finalist for its efforts to promote established local, national, and international artists outside the mainstream, as well as crackerjack emerging talent. Look for the 6th Street Container's initiatives to host international exchange programs, artists' residencies, and local community workshops.

This past February, Miami's art scene lost one of its elite leaders when Ruba Katrib was tapped as the new curator at Long Island City's Sculpture­Center. Before leaving the Magic City, Katrib, the former associate curator at the Museum of Contemporary Art in North Miami (MOCA), left an enduring legacy at the museum by organizing a string of exhibits easily rivaling any top-flight cultural institutions in the nation. With an astute eye for talent and of-the-moment art trends and critical contemporary issues, Katrib gained international attention in 2010 when she organized the first U.S. museum survey of the work of Cory Arcangel and introduced South Florida audiences to the Paris-based collective Claire Fontaine. Prior to landing in South Florida, Katrib, a West Virginia native, had earned her bachelor's degree in visual and critical studies from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and later graduated with a master's degree from Bard College's formidable Center for Curatorial Studies. She went on to found ThreeWalls, a Windy City nonprofit, before moving on to the Centre Pompidou in Paris, where she cultivated an international arts network. Last year, she brought Ryan Trecartin's "Any Ever" to MOCA — hands down one of the top events of the year's arts calendar. She also organized the ambitious group offering "Modify, as Needed" before accepting her new post at the SculptureCenter. Luckily, Katrib, who served as an adjunct professor at the New World School of the Arts, has inspired a fresh crop of talent likely to carry her dynamic vision well into the future.

Harold Golen Gallery

Idolized by several generations for her savory pinups, including the infamous nude photos of Bettie Page that graced the pages of Playboy in its infancy, Bunny Yeager can mark 2011 as the year of her rediscovery. The iconic South Florida shutterbug was the subject of her first museum survey at Pittsburgh's Andy Warhol Museum, where highbrow art swells showered her with some long-overdue love. In Miami, her modest solo, "The Fabulous Bunny Yeager" at Harold Golen, was the first gallery exhibit featuring Yeager as the subject. The tantalizing show featured a luscious collection of rare, never-before-seen self-portraits taken by Yeager during the '50s and '60s. Not only did they quickly become the toast of the town, but the former beauty queen's enduring allure also earned her a spot on New Times' May 5, 2011 cover. Not surprisingly, Yeager's work caught the eye of Berlin-based curator Helmut Schuster, who organized a blockbuster exhibit boasting more than 200 of her eye-scalding pictures this past Art Basel.

For lovers of traditional and contemporary art from Latin America, ArteAmericas has become a darling by mixing big names such as Wifredo Lam and Carlos Cruz-Diez with emerging talent from around the hemisphere. The self-described "boutique fair" typically draws about 50 international and local galleries to the Miami Beach Convention Center, where visitors can discover more traditional museum-quality paintings and sculptures alongside the latest trends in multimedia and video installations. But in 2011, the fair tried spicing up its image with racier works such as dancing dildos and videos of swollen, glowing testicles courtesy of the Wynwood art space LMNT. Although crowds flocked to LMNT's stall to peek into a gold-painted mannequin's backside and observe themselves emerging through its digestive tract in one interactive opus, ArteAmericas' ninth installment soon turned excremental. During the weekend, a vandal scrawled the word shit on local artist Marco Vallela's series of abstract paintings, valued at $8,000. The paintings were removed from the exhibit after Miami Beach police investigated. Then ArteAmericas was in the news again for all the wrong reasons after Cuban painter Agustín Bejarano, who was in town exhibiting at the fair, was busted by Hialeah cops for allegedly sexually assaulting a 5-year-old boy. Let's hope 2012 puts the fair back on its path of celebrating the highlights of Latin American arts.

We have to admit to feeling some skepticism when Art Miami director Nick Korniloff announced a new stand-alone fair this past February so quickly on the tails of Art Basel. After all, the economy is stale, and who else besides the one-percenters can afford to buy art? But to everyone's surprise, when Art Wynwood opened on Presidents' Day weekend in midtown Miami during one of the busiest weeks of the season, the gambit paid off. Korniloff, who has steered the once-fading Art Miami back to relevancy during December art week, saw an opportunity in Wynwood. He believed he could create an international fair with homegrown appeal and persuaded local cultural leaders and institutions to back him. The inaugural edition of Art Wynwood featured 50 galleries from 13 countries, with nearly a quarter of the roster culled from Wynwood spaces. Decidedly edgier than its more sedate progenitor Art Miami, Art Wynwood boasted photography, painting, sculpture, video, installation, urban street art, and every conceivable contemporary genre by more than 500 international artists. It was held at Art Miami's sprawling 100,000-square-foot tent pavilion, where a crowd of about 5,000 collectors and culture vultures attended the event's VIP preview. More impressive, Coral Gables' Cernuda Arte reported $400,000 in sales during the five-day confab, while New York-based Westwood Gallery and London's Waterhouse & Dodd each saw their coffers enriched by transactions exceeding six figures. Not only did most of the participant local galleries boast windfall sales for undisclosed amounts, but also nearly every gallery and artist's studio in the neighborhood was overrun by close to 24,000 attendees. While some might scoff at Korniloff's assertion that Wynwood is challenging New York, local dealers' spiking sales at non-Basel fairs can only leave observers feeling optimistic about Miami's art future.

Three years ago, when Constance Collins Margulies hosted her first annual one-night fundraiser for the Lotus House Women's Shelter at her husband Marty Margulies's capacious art warehouse, little did she dream the event would spill out onto Wynwood's gritty streets to transform the surrounding landscape into a virtual playground for art lovers. The down-home art-happening-cum-charity-shindig transformed a stretch of NW Sixth Avenue between 23rd and 29th streets with multiple stages boasting live music, performances, vaudeville acts, buskers, and impromptu, percussion-led parades by local talent such as the Magic City's FriendsWithYou during the spirited three-day extravaganza. Supported by major museums and more than 30 local galleries and artist spaces from across the 305, the fundraising fair collected upward of $500,000 over the weekend. Everywhere during a postcard-perfect South Florida weekend in October, young families and their children observed and made art in interactive exhibits to support the women of Lotus House, trying to break the bonds of dependency through the uplifting spirit of art.

From evoking the slow-drip symphony of a summer shower with an array of suspended buckets to creating paintings using a torrential downpour in her native Brazil, Rivane Neuenschwander's first museum survey enchanted Miami Art Museum visitors through its beguiling and interactive nature. "A Day Like Any Other" featured 11 major works created over the past decade. In them, Neuenschwander, a storyteller with an eye for the cinematic, explored themes of time's fleeting nature and concepts of mapping, measuring, trading, and categorization. At once poetic and haunting, her works included dreamy constellations conjured by using a hole puncher on literary classics as well as an Orwellian installation based on a '70s Francis Ford Coppola thriller that riffed on notions that Big Brother is alive and well. Adding a palpable noirish feel to the engaging exhibit, Neuenschwander even recruited a forensic artist from the Palm Beach Sheriff's Office, who collaborated with MAM visitors to re-create memories of their first flames. The result was a gallery filled with portraits of perps guilty of breaking hearts.

If you found yourself in the Design District this past Art Basel, you might have stumbled across one of Domingo Castillo's street posters supposedly advertising a missing cat but actually leading to an alternative space, Dimensions Variable. Castillo created the poster as part of the exhibition "G-Spot: Get the Green Light," which highlighted Miami's rising talent during December's citywide arts confab. Castillo's cat was just one of the red herrings that fill the inscrutable artist's works. At Dimensions Variable, the 23-year-old set up a makeshift karaoke bar for an exhibit titled "Duets." But unless you personally knew Castillo or were the guest of one of his friends, your dreams of joining him on the microphone for a rendition of "Cat's in the Cradle" were dashed. In fact, spectators outside the gallery were the ones who truly got to experience the spirit of the art, which was in fact a commentary on the exclusivity of Basel. Castillo is also one of the founders behind the End/Spring Break, a nomadic art project responsible for some of the quirkiest and most thought-provoking cultural programming in the Big Mango the past year.

In Djanet Sears's racially and sexually charged Harlem Duet, Christina Alexander of the M Ensemble portrayed Billie, a woman scorned by her man and betrayed by her mind. While dealing with her husband Othello leaving her for his white co-worker, Billie's mind is in constant flux, unstable and deteriorating, while an uneasiness in her perspective on race throughout the years simmers beneath the surface. A character this complex and layered demands an actress to walk the fine line of sanity and lunacy, of love and hate, and of grace and rage. With her malleable expressions and darting, vulnerable eyes, Alexander was able to capture perfectly the delicate balance of Billie's perception of Othello's betrayal — not just that he left her, but that he left her for an intellectually equal white woman — while confronting him with her own viewpoints on interracial relationships. She deftly allowed Billie's psychosis to seep in gradually, staying even-keeled when confronting Othello, even as she wrestled with her personal demons in solitude, while plotting her revenge. A richly drawn character such as Billie demands versatility, and Alexander's portrayal was a delicate balance of sincerity and maddening rejection.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®