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 was awarded the Paul Hamlyn Foundation, Artist Award in 2008 and the first Daiwa Foundation Art Prize in 2009. Coates has exhibited widely in the UK and overseas; solo exhibitions include Proxy, Kate Macgarry, London (2012); Dawn Chorus, Aberystwyth Arts Centre, Wales (2012); The Trip, The Serpentine Gallery, Artist Studio, Londo (2011) and Psychopomp, Milton Keynes Gallery (2010). He was also included in the 2009 Tate Triennale exhibition Altermodern, curated by Nicolas Bourriaud.

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. He gained notoriety for his video installation Dawn Chorus (2007), in which singers are shown in their natural habitats of offices and living rooms, mimicking intricate birdsong.

Coates regularly appears in his films, often as a shamanic figure 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 a series of photographic self-portraits from 2013 in which the artist transforms himself into insects and molluscs by encasing his body in shaving foam, cotton wool, sugar and flour paste. Another transformation takes place in the film Human Report (2008), where Coates inverts the perspective of the nature documentary format. Disguised in a rudimentary cardboard costume resembling a blue-footed booby bird, native to the Galapagos Islands, the artist undertakes an observation of human life. The result is a funny, yet poignant critique of our desire to demystify nature.