The Artsy Vanguard 2020: Patrick Staff

Alina Cohen
Sep 11, 2020 8:00PM

Patrick Staff

B. 1987, Bognor Regis, England. Lives and works in Los Angeles and London.

Patrick Staff, still from The Prince of Homburg, 2019. Courtesy of the artist and Commonwealth and Council, Los Angeles.


Patrick Staff’s haunting, uncanny films offer striking, fresh perspectives on gender and the body. Their recent work The Prince of Homburg (2019)—which was shown at the Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dundee Contemporary Arts, and Humber Street Gallery over the past two years—takes Heinrich von Kleist’s titular 19th-century play as its starting point, with one speaker musing over whether a corpse still has a gender.

Staff’s 2017 film Weed Killer merges high-definition thermal imaging shots with spoken meditations on chemotherapy, and the fine line between harming and healing the body. In The Foundation (2015), the artist visits the Tom of Finland Foundation and investigates the celebratory queer community surrounding the cult figure.

Weed Killer, which was commissioned by the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, has also been acquired by New York’s Museum of Modern Art and London’s Tate—significant institutional votes of confidence for the young artist.

In 2019, the Serpentine Galleries mounted “Patrick Staff: On Venus,” a major exhibition in which Staff debuted the titular On Venus (2019), a site-specific installation incorporating video, print, and architectural intervention. In the piece, they turn their lens on animal bodies, juxtaposing shots of cattle, birds, and meatpacking plants in a surreal, psychedelic montage. Staff, who shows with Los Angeles gallery Commonwealth and Council, is slated to have a forthcoming solo show at Luma Arles in France.

The Artsy Vanguard 2020

The Artsy Vanguard 2020 is our annual list of the most promising artists shaping the future of contemporary art. This year, artists are organized into two categories: Newly Emerging, which presents artists who’ve gained momentum in the past year, showing at leading institutions and galleries; and Getting Their Due, which identifies artists who have persevered for decades, yet only recently received the spotlight they deserve. Now in its third edition, the feature was developed by the Artsy staff, in collaboration with our network of international curators and art professionals. Explore more of The Artsy Vanguard 2020.

Alina Cohen

Header and thumbnail image, from left to right: Installation view of “Weed Killer,” 2017 at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles. Photo by Zak Kelley; Installation view of “On Venus,” 2019 at Serpentine Galleries, London, UK. Photo by Hugo Glendinning; Installation views of “On Venus,” 2019 at Serpentine Galleries, London, UK. Photo by Hugo Glendinning. All images courtesy of the artist and Commonwealth and Council, Los Angeles.

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Jenna Gribbon, Luncheon on the grass, a recurring dream, 2020. Jenna Gribbon, April studio, parting glance, 2021. Jenna Gribbon, Silver Tongue, 2019