Marcus Coates was born in London in 1968. He studied at the Kent Institute of Art and Design and the Royal Academy of Art, London. He lives and works in London. 

Coates was awarded the Paul Hamlyn Foundation, Artist Award in 2008 and the first Daiwa Foundation Art Prize in 2009. He has exhibited widely in the UK and overseas; solo exhibitions include The Barbican Centre, London, UK, 2015; Hai arts, Island of Hailuoto, Finalnd, 2013; Aberystwyth Arts Centre, Wales, 2012; The Serpentine Gallery, London, 2011 and MK Gallery, Milton Keynes, 2010. He was also included in the 2009 Tate Triennale exhibition Altermodern.

Working in various media, including photography, sculpture and sound, Coates is best known for his performative films, which explore encounters between the human and animal worlds, a key theme throughout his work. He appropriates the language and behaviour of wild mammals, insects and birds as a means of deciphering our emotional and social conventions. Coates regularly appears in his films, often interacting with members of the public. Dressed in casual clothes and a selection of taxidermal headdresses, he channels animal spirits, using these encounters to offer insight into the problems of the human world. 

This interest in ‘becoming animal’ continues in this series of photographic self-portraits from 2013 in which the artist transforms himself into insects and molluscs by encasing his body in materials such as cotton wool and shaving foam. In these works Coates attempts to channel the spirits of these slugs through a ritualistic process which also has parallels with the daily grooming rituals. Through forms of mimicry and disguise Coates allows transformative processes to take over and creates an image which alludes to the form and essence of an animal rather than a pictoral representation.