For many of us, the basic human desire for knowledge, stimulation, understanding, pleasure and enlightenment is fed by our engagement with the arts. Did you know that being distracted by art actually boosts productivity, lowers stress levels and increases overall well-being? It’s true: it’s in your best interests to be more engaged with the arts, and we’re making it easier for you than ever.

There’s plenty to stimulate you art-wise this month. Arguably the world’s greatest art fair Frieze is around the corner, a future Jean-Michel Basquiat retrospective has just been announced by the Barbican and there are exciting exhibitions happening all across the globe, at this very minute.

While it’s impossible to shine a spotlight on all of the amazing art and exhibitions taking place all over the world, the following is our selection of the top 10 must-see art exhibitions to check out this month.

Chris Johanson, “Imperfect Reality with Figures and Challenging Abstraction,” Berlin

Chris Johanson, Untitled, 2016

With Berlin’s autumn sky looking increasingly ominous, walking into Chris Johanson’s current show at The Conversation feels like the first day of a permanent vacation. His unschooled and playful style radiates the room with an exuberant sense of color that immediately gives you a lift.

A keen observer of contemporary life, his poetic practice is an exploration of the universe that surrounds him and the place within it in which he exists. Both abstract and figurative, his work expresses the artist‘s strong beliefs in environmentalism, compassion and peaceful co-existence.

His immersive installations depict the hope and despair of contemporary life as we deal with the crushing conformity of modern existence. In Johanson’s words, “The human structures that we have made are at odds with the organic nature of the world. This causes conflict.”

The Conversation, running until December 3

Daniel Richter, “Lonely Old Slogans,” Copanhagen

Daniel Richter, Tarifa, 2001

Daniel Richter is a storyteller whose style transcends the traditional boundaries of his genre. Recognizable narratives that are all too relevant today are illuminated through surreal and strongly colored paintings.

Tarifa, 2001, depicts huddled refugees, their race reconfigured with the artist’s vibrant eye for color. Horses, dogs, demonstrators, musicians, young people in ecstasy; all appear in his poster-like scenes and continue his task of questioning German identity. This political aspect has its resonance in the artist’s involvement with the punk movement in Hamburg as a youth. At the center of both the music scene and local activism his attention demanding past lies like a watermark underneath his practice.

Often described as “a kind of new history painting” – works that capture the spirit of the time rather than reproducing particular historical events – “Lonely Old Slogans” is a mid-career retrospective made up of forty-five oils. This is an artist who has an agenda, and you are unlikely to emerge unaffected from the rooms in Louisiana’s exhibition.

Louisiana, running until January 8

Slavs and Tatars, “Afteur Pasteur,” NYC

Slavs and Tatars – Installation view of Afteur Pasteur, Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, New York

Slavs and Tatars are an Eastern European art collective who describe themselves as “a faction of polemics and intimacies devoted to an area east of the former Berlin Wall and west of the Great Wall of China” – in other words, a place where Eastern and Western identities merge. Humor is a key component of their practice, which includes publications and performances, as well as installations and other works of art.

“Afteur Pasteur” is a playful exploration of this cultural and political geography. Challenging our understanding of the self, their focus is bacteria and the microbe; the original “foreign object.” Spanning both floors of the gallery, a fermented milk bar, sculptures and two-dimensional works mesh hidden histories with humanity’s global impact on the Earth’s geology.

Tongue firmly in cheek, their newest cycle of research, “Pickle Politics,” turns to fermentation and souring in order to mine questions about the limits of human knowledge.

Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, running until October 22

Willa Nasatir, LA

Willa Nasatir, installation view, 2016. Photo: Jeff McLane

Willa Nasatir’s intricate sculptural landscapes wouldn’t look out of place hung on the walls of the Tyrell Corporation building in Blade Runner. Her surreal and opulent palette emanates a futuristic ’80s atmosphere that feels dark and elusive. This otherworldliness is a key component to her work’s seductive nature.

Based in New York, Nasatir’s complex compositions involve a process of constructing detailed subjects, photographing, re-working, re-printing and photographing again. The resulting productions challenge the eye’s hierarchy and create a puzzling psychological space.

Her first solo exhibition in Los Angeles contains seven new compositions, unframed and tacked to the wall. Commanding the space, the towering photographs confront her medium with aggression and grace, addressing its history and legacy while challenging its constraints.

Ghebaly Gallery, running until October 29

Nicolas Party, “Three Cats,” Glasgow

Nicolas Party, Installation view ‘Three Cats’, The Modern Institute, Aird’s Lane, Glasgow, 2016

At first glance of Nicolas Party’s work, it’s hard to imagine his classical and clever paintings have early foundations in a decade spent as a graffiti artist. As contradictory as both outputs are, his unconventional approach to exhibiting, which sees him completely transform his venues, owes much to his teenage pastime of graffiti bombing entire trains. Thankfully, this youthful practice uniquely complements his schooling as a classical painter.

The faux-classical setting is the perfect environment to present the Swiss artist’s body of portraiture, still lives and landscapes. Party likens his compositions to a group of performers on stage, with his wall paintings posing as theatrical sets.

Coffee pots, bowls of fruit and androgynous figures are simple, everyday objects turned non-naturalistic, seductive and upbeat. Set against the precise patterning of the backdrops, which add depth and detail, his work and the exhibition overall is both beautiful and romantic.

The Modern Institute, running until October 29

Jannis Kounellis, “DODECAFONIA,” Rome

Jannis Kounellis - Courtesy Gavin Brown’s enterprise, New York

Jannis Kounellis was born in Piraeus, Greece in 1936, but moved to Rome in 1956, where he still lives and works. His art is characterized by the juxtaposition of elements, including ready-made objects such as bed frames, doors and shelves and raw materials such as stone, cotton, wool, coal, fire and soot.

His solo show at Gavin Brown’s Enterprise is no different. Sant Andrea De Scaphis, an 18th century church, hosts the artist’s recurring focus with charcoal stones, ropes and metal ladders warping the traditional surroundings.

Blurring the borders between the artwork and space, “DODECAFONIA” is an iconic and powerful exhibition ready to impose itself on anyone who visits.

Gavin Brown’s Enterprise, running until November 30

Harold Ancart, “Grand Flâneur,” LA

Harold Ancart – Untitled. Photo: Frederik Nilsen

Whilst taking in Harold Ancart’s singular piece of work, you soon realize his monumental mural challenges your sense of dimension and discipline. Confronting the viewer with a vast image that dominates the field of view, the 14ft tall and 37ft wide object can be viewed as a painting, sculpture and installation.

This fluidity of final forms suggests that the role of the artist can be compared to that of a wanderer. The freshness of his impressions and his ability to generate images possessed of visceral intensity help guide the eye, with each work pointing the way to the next.

Grand Flâneur is a reminder that drawings and paintings don’t need to adhere to the traditions of galleries and museums by hanging on the walls. Inspired by Mexican muralism and the important role murals have played in the development of public art in post-war Los Angeles, Ancart engages with the history of image-making as a social phenomenon.

David Kordansky Gallery, running until October 22

Paolo Gioli, “On the Edge Of (New) Media,” London

Paolo Gioli, courtesy Wilkinson Gallery, London

Over the course of a four-decade career, Paolo Gioli has produced works that constantly push the limits of a given medium. This exhibition focuses on a particularly intense moment of experimentation in the 1970s.

After discovering photosensitive materials could be used to produce and manipulate images in an artisanal manner, the artist was drawn to working with film. Like a solitary painter, he then went on to spend many hours in his darkroom developing a range of new processes.

Using hand-made cameras, also on display, Gioli’s investigative approach to material and content was an exploration into the origins of images and the genesis of form. His resulting work, shown here at Wilkinson, includes a combination of films, photographs and paintings.

Wilkinson Gallery, running until November 13

Jean Tinguely, “Machine Spectacle,” Amsterdam

Jean Tinguely installation view, – Machine spectacle. Photo: Gert Jan van Rooij

Seeking to emphasize play and experimentation, Jean Tinguely created his work as a rejection of the static, conventional art world. Art was not about standing in a sterile white space, distantly gazing at a silent painting, so he produced kinetic sculptures that animated the boundary between his passion and life.

With over a hundred machine sculptures paired with films, photos, drawings and archive materials, the exhibition takes you on a chronological and thematic journey of his artistic development, from his love of absurd playfulness to his fascination for destruction and ephemerality.

As well as his early wire sculptures, works in which Tinguely imitated and animated the abstract paintings of artists such as Malevich, Miró and Klee are also featured. Interactive drawing machines and wild dancing installations constructed from salvaged metal, waste materials and discarded clothing top off this dynamic show.

Stedelijk Museum, running until March 1

Despina Stoukou, “SHOUT!”, NYC

Despina Stoukou - President's Obama Summer Playlist (Day), 2016

SHOUT! continues Despina Stokou’s exploration of popular culture and political debate as mediated (and distorted) by contemporary public forums. As an artist, curator and writer her work is concerned with the expression of language in its variety of forms, from blog posts and Twitter comments to press releases and drug prescriptions.

Probing the depths of the internet, Stokou critically examines the fusion of history with trending topics, and the effects of these shifting forms of communication in the physical world. Online conversations dominate the public narrative, yet large numbers of the population still struggle to have their voices heard in meaningful ways.

SHOUT! is a call to action, a new form of call-and-response to the reality of anger sweeping through the United States and the rest of the world. What will come out on the other side at a time when everybody is paying attention, and the chorus of voices is growing louder?

Derek Eller Gallery, running from October 14 until November 13

For more in the way of art, check out our interview with Julian Klincewicz, the artist who does (nearly) everything.

  • Words:Tom Giddins
  • Lead image:Nicolas Party, Installation view ‘Three Cats’, The Modern Institute, Aird’s Lane, Glasgow, 2016
Words by Contributor
What To Read Next