The Commuters

The Commuters is in The Artangel Collection. Since its initial presentation in 2005, the work has been presented at the Whitworth in Manchester in 2011, and at Art Exchange in Colchester in autumn 2013.

  • Artist: Francis Alÿs
  • Title: The Commuters
  • Date: 2005
  • Medium: Oil paint on canvas, photograph, gelatin silver print on paper, ink on paper and 18 drawings
  • Dimension: Overall display dimensions variable
  • In the Tate Collection


[Alÿs asked] certain people to take a work - an oil painting he has done showing the legs of commuters - home with them at night. This kind of playfulness owes something to René Magritte and other exponents of the Surreal but it's this delight in creating narratives of the possible and even the absurd that allies Alÿs more closely to short-story writers such as Italo Calvino and Jorge Luis Borges. For him, as for them, the city is a place of fantasy. — Mark Irving, The Times (paywall), 24 September 2005.

Over five years Francis Alÿs walked the streets of London, mapping its habits and rituals in a range of different media, and the ensuing films, videos, paintings and drawings were presented as Seven Walks at 21 Portman Square in 2005 for the artist’s first major solo exhibition in the UK. Amongst these works was The Commuters, an oil painting that visitors to the exhibition could take home overnight. 

Image: Francis Alÿs, The Commuters, 2005

at Art Exchange

Colchester, 30 September - 30 November 2013

In the autumn of 2013, The Commuters was installed at Art Exchange as part of an exhibition of Francis Alÿs' project Seven Walks. The works in Seven Walks were developed by Alÿs over 5 years, and delved into the everyday rituals and habits of the metropolis. This exhibition at Art Exchange was accompanied by a symposium, which expanded on the themes of Alÿs' explorations of the city, and featured speakers TJ Demos, James Lingwood, Andrés Montenegro, Marina Warner and Richard Wentworth. The discussion was chaired by Dawn Ades.

Image: Installation view of Francis Alÿs, Seven Walks including The Commuters at Art Exchange, 2013. Photograph: Courtesy Art Exchange

at the Whitworth, The University of Manchester

Manchester, 2 July - 4 September 2011

The Commuters featured in 'Projections', an exhibition of four moving image projects from The Artangel Collection, shown within the context of the Whitworth, its collection, and the park that it shares with the city of Manchester.

Image: Installation view of Francis Alÿs, Seven Walks including The Commuters, 2005 at the Whitworth, The University of Manchester, 2011. Photograph: Michael Pollard

Previous Presentations

Since the launch of The Artangel Collection, The Commuters has been installed at: