Tales from the Turf: The Kentucky Horse

Tales from the Turf: The Kentucky Horse, 1825 – 1950

November 15, 2019 – March 1, 2020
North Building, 3rd Floor Special Exhibition 

The first exhibition to examine Kentucky’s relationship to the horse through art, Tales from the Turf will feature the paintings, sculpture, photographs, drawings, prints, and manuscripts to tell the story of the horse in the Bluegrass State. The exhibition will reflect all the ways that images of the horse have represented the Commonwealth’s identity, history, mythology, and agricultural economy, from its earliest days through the mid-twentieth century.

Tales from the Turf begins when Kentucky was still the edge of the western frontier. Early horse breeders looked to the gentlemen farmers of Virginia for inspiration in business and collecting art. Sporting art traditions carried over from England helped launch the Thoroughbred trade, and by the late nineteenth century, an industry focused on the “betterment of the breed” would witness the rise of over 60 racecourses across the state.

An agricultural and aristocratic pastime became a multi-billion dollar industry in the twentieth century, and the desire for collecting images of the horse has only grown over the decades. Presenting works from Kentucky’s leading private collections, Tales from the Turf will change Kentucky’s understanding of its own history through the act of making, collecting, and sharing the art of the horse.

Churchill Downs Trifecta Package: We’re excited to announce that any guest who visits Tales from the Turf in the month of February can enter to win an exciting Trifecta package from Churchill Downs*!

The Trifecta package includes the following:

  • One table for eight (8) on Millionaire’s Row
  • Chef’s table lunch
  • Reserved seating
  • Eight (8) racing programs
  • Eight (8) passes to the Kentucky Derby Museum

To reserve tickets, click here.

Public Programs at the Speed Art Museum presented in association with Tales from the Turf  include:

  • Thursday, November 14, 5:30 – 7 pm: Patron Circle Exhibition Opening Preview Reception
  • Thursday, November 14, 7 – 9 pm: Speed Member Exhibition Preview Opening
  • Friday, November 15, 5 – 10 pm: Celebrate the opening as part of After Hours at the Speed! | RESERVE
  • Sunday, December 1, 2 – 3 pm: Project to Preserve African-American Turf History (PPAATH): Tales of African-American Kentucky Derby Achievements from 1875 – 1902 | LEARN MORE
    • A discussion of pioneering efforts of African-American racehorse men who shaped the early legacy of the racing industry.
    • Curator Erika Holmquist-Wall will join the discussion.
  • Friday, January 3, 6 – 8 pmA Matter of Light: The Art of Andre Pater
    Join us for a talk with artist Andre Pater on his new art book A Matter of Light, the Art of Andre Pater with a focus on his journey as a sporting artist and his creative process. | RESERVE
  • Sunday, February 16, 1 – 2:30 pmBlack Horse Men of Kentucky with Dr. Katherine Mooney
    A presentation exploring the history of the Black Horse Men of Kentucky with Dr. Katherine Mooney, Associate Professor of History at Florida State University. | RESERVE
  • Sunday, February 23, 12:30 – 1:30 pm: Public Tour with Erika Holmquist-Wall and Maryjean Wall
    Erika Holmquist-Wall, exhibition curator, will lead a tour with special guest Maryjean Wall, author of How Kentucky Became Southern: A Tale of Outlaws, Horse Thieves, Gamblers, and Breeders.
  • Friday, February 28, 6 – 7 pmHistory of Kentucky Horse Farms
    Join us in Tales from the Turf: The Kentucky Horse for an in-depth gallery talk about the history of Kentucky horse farms with a panel of local owners. | RESERVE

Exhibition support provided by:









Mr. and Mrs. George Hoskins
Austin and Janie Musselman
William McMahan
Nina Bonnie
Mr. and Mrs. Tracy Farmer
Connie Goodman
Susan and Allan Lavin
Carol and Charles Hebel
Helen Condon Powell
Genevieve and Terry Lacer
Hardscuffle, Inc.
Hank and Mary Brockman

Exhibition season support provided by:
Dav Fam Art Fund
Cary Brown and Steven E. Epstein
Paul and Deborah Chellgren
Debra and Ronald Murphy
Eleanor Bingham Miller
* This package may be used anytime during the 2020 – 2021 racing season based on availability and with the exclusions of: Opening week of the Spring Meet (Thurby, Oaks and Derby Days), Mother’s Day, Preakness Day, Belmont Day, All Downs After Dark Dates, Breeders’ Cup days and Thanksgiving weekend.