Five of the best
1Basquiat Jean-Michel Basquiat replaced the jazz improvisations of Jackson Pollock with scrawled, death-haunted messages from the street. This raw style made him a sensation in 1980s New York. His death in 1988 at the age of just 27 only intensified that reputation. Now, with the US plunged into political and social disunion, Basquiat looks like a prophet of the country’s woes. He also looks like a remarkable painter who showed how youth and rebellion can electrify art. Barbican Art Gallery, EC2, Thu to 28 Jan
2Degas “Impressionist” is a woefully inadequate description of this artist of obsessive voyeurism, almost frightening observational power, and erotic imagination. Degas lived in a solitary world of his own while moving endlessly through the public spaces of Paris, from the ballet to race tracks and circuses. His studies of women sublimate sexual fascination into images of strange poetic intensity. The National Gallery, WC2, Wed to 7 May
3Martin Boyce The reality of modern cities is potently recreated by this 2011 Turner prize-winning Glasgow artist in works that seem abstract yet are full of poignant associations. His installations are like frozen playgrounds where something terrible has happened and the swings are off-limits. He creates melancholic sculptural prisons from decaying public spaces, brutalist shopping centres and dreary parks.
The Modern Institute, Glasgow, Mon to 4 Nov
4Arte Povera For once, the Estorick Collection abandons its obsession with minor futurists and puts on an exhibition that actually matters. The 1960s Italian group Arte Povera was the first art movement to confront environmental crisis. At a time of dramatic urbanisation and economic growth in Italy, artists such as Mario Merz chose natural materials over the plastic world of pop. Here their influence on British artists from Richard Long to Gavin Turk is mapped.
The Estorick Collection of Modern Italian Art, N1, Wed to 17 Dec
5Nature Morte Mat Collishaw and Gabriel Orozco are among the contemporary artists revisiting the still life tradition here. Ever since eye-fooling bowls of fruit were included in ancient Roman frescoes, the still life’s frozen perfection has represented both life and death. It lends itself remarkably well to conceptual reinventions, including Collishaw’s eerie reconstructions of last meals on Death Row. Guildhall Art Gallery, EC2, to 2 Apr
Basquiat, Untitled (Pablo Picasso) (1984)
Degas, The Three Dancers (c1896-1905)
Gavin Turk, Small Gold Senza Titolo (2012), part of Arte Povera