Serial Paintings - Over 1,500 Portraits Painted on Subway Tickets by Luc Grateau

Riding the metro day after day can feel like a dehumanizing experience. We push our way on to a crowded train, share a moment in time with our fellow travelers and then go our separate ways. Lives interconnect without a word - without knowing if someone is sick, or if they lost their job, or if it's their birthday, or if they just had a new baby. We don't care. We don't want to know. They're only with us for a short time and then they're gone...

That's why I was so pleased to see some of Luc Grateau's 1,500 oil paintings of fellow passengers on metro tickets in a display case at the Musée des Arts et Métiers.

As described by Grateau:

Paintings on subway tickets. This project began in the fall 2004. Each painting is the result of a subway ride, the reflection of a chance encounter. I wanted to remember all of the anonymous faces and gazes of the people I share my journey with, so every day I paint the portrait of a fellow passenger on a ticket - bound by the constraints of colour, size, movement and time. I try to retain the memory of all those I have come across but, over time, the memory fades and all this is left behind is the portrait.


  1. They're so clever! It would be fun to spot your face :-)

  2. What a great idea! Like Sara said, how fun would it be spot your face, or anyone that you know for that matter. Besides the concept being imaginative, the paintings are really well-done. All that detail just on a bitty metro ticket! Thanks for reporting, MK!

  3. I think that's really cool. I used to use the metro in Newcastle every day and it was awful. As you say, it's dehumanising - but it's the best way to get around a city.

  4. Great concept and execution. I'm glad he's in a museum. It would be great fun to spot yourself or someone you know. I wonder if he sells any of the portraits.

    It also reminds me of a story I read about a man who paints the gum smears on the sidewalk in front of the British Museum. (Now let me see if my memory served me correctly on that.)

  5. Yep.

  6. I agree - it would be fun to spot your face or the face of someone you know. I would also like to spot the artist at work on the metro. I'm going to have to pay more attention while I'm traveling around town.

    Joseph, Thanks for including the link for the article about the English artist who paints on gum. What an interesting story! I'll have to spend more time looking at the ground the next time that I'm in London.

    The metro ticket portraits are only on temporary display at the museum to accompany the current exhibition on the metro. It wasn't clear from looking at the artist's website if he sells his paintings or not.

  7. THat is fabulous. I wish we could think of more uses for the millions of metro tickets that litter the streets!

  8. Kate, There are some other artists doing creative things with metro tickets. I'll have to post about them as well.

    But you're right, there are still so many tickets littering the ground. The good news is that soon we'll be able to use our phones to pay for the metro and won't need to use paper tickets.

  9. These are so cool! This guy is really talented.

    This reminds me of a young guy I sat next to on the bus yesterday who I noticed was sketching the people around him. I took a peek over his shoulder and he was really good. I wish I could do that, because I think strangers do make interesting subjects.

  10. Hi there ! Thank you for the article and comments
    try this one

    Luc Grateau


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