Artwork from Ann Arbor nonprofit's graffiti train sold at Paris auction

In 1986, Ann Arbor arts nonprofit Artrain commissioned a group of graffiti artists to paint murals on the railroad cars that served as Artrain's mobile art museum. Last week, artworks from that project sold for a combined $22,660 at the Artcurial auction house in Paris.


"Aggregated, the works exceeded the high estimate given by the auction house," says Artrain president and CEO Deb Polich. "The bidding was fast, with the auction of our 12 works being finished in about 10 minutes."


The pieces auctioned included photos and watercolors of the murals, as well as a painted piece of one of the actual train cars. The murals were originally commissioned for Artrain's Signs of the Times: Pop Art and Photo-Realism in America exhibition and tour. The train displayed approximately 50 artworks as it toured 22 cities in four states, reaching 90,600 people in 1986.


The Artrain graffiti train was retired in 2008, but Artrain continues to bring art to people (particularly those without easy access to museums) throughout the country via various programs and initiatives. The organization's mission has been to deliver discovery and transform lives, organizations, and communities through the power of arts and culture,.


Polich says the auction proceeds will help Artrain in a very fundamental way.


"The money will go toward general operations support," she says. "Arguably, it’s the most important support we can receive as it helps to fortify our organization while allowing our mission work to flourish."


Jaishree Drepaul-Bruder is a freelance writer and editor currently in based in Ann Arbor. She can be reached at


Photos courtesy of Artrain.