March 5, 2024

Banksy, Hirst and Emin coming to town: an art weekend in Newmarket, Suffolk | Suffolk holidays

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Newfoundland in Suffolk is a town British horse racing, with many equestrian items. There are two race courses, the Rowley Mile and the July Course; the gallops in which the horses exercise; the National Stud, where they are bred; and Tattersalls, where they are bought and sold. There’s plenty of art too, but it’s mostly of the horsey kind – the Packard Galleries of British Sporting Art which is full of paintings by George Stubbs and Alfred Munnings, and pictures of hunting, falconry, shooting and, of course, racing.

This summer, however, there is a new kind of art in town. The IS National Horse Racing Museum is one of three venues across west Suffolk co-hosting a huge street art exhibition. Urban Frame: Mutiny in Color features over 300 works by leading street and contemporary artists, including Banksy, Damien Hirst and Tracey Emin.

Kate Moss record with Damien Hirst
Kate Moss record with Damien Hirst. Photo: John Brandler

The Newport exhibition includes the world premiere of The 7: Banksy Under Siege, a replica of a lifetime of “walls” created by the artist in war-torn Ukraine last November. The photographic reproductions are particularly poignant as many of the walls themselves have now been destroyed by the bombing. There are also two original works by Banksy on show: Hula Hooping Girl, from a salon wall in Nottingham, and Love is in the Air, an anti-war image that appeared on the side of a garage in Jerusalem. The latter is being formally exhibited for the first time after being sold at auction for $12.9m last year, and will then travel to galleries in Amsterdam and Barcelona. Other exhibits include a Citroen Berlingo Van, a vehicle painted by artist My Dog Sighs with 200 eyes; work with Blek le Rat, the father of stencil graffiti; contemporary costume artists the Connor Brothersand big names in street art, such as Pure Evil, Stik and Kaws.

They are the other two centers, which contain work by many of the same artists Haverhill Arts Centre and Moyse Hall Museum in Bury St Edmunds. Both are within easy reach of Newmarket – Haverhill is half an hour’s journey, Bury St Edmunds a 20 minute train journey – and all three are well worth visiting over a weekend. Artists at Haverhill Centre, a former Victorian town hall, are running free workshops on illustration and printmaking, inspired by the exhibition.

The artist My Dog Sighs in his studio
The artist My Dog Sighs. Photo: Jack Daly

The exhibition at Moyse Hall, a 12th century building on the market, is inspired by My Dog Sighs’ use of found materials. The set dressing is borrowed from artists or created with crates and bricks, there are no paper labels – information is written or painted directly on the walls – and fixtures and other fittings are reused from past shows. This show will also feature Banksy – Sandcastle Girl, painted on a wall in Lowestoft in 2021 – and video of the artist in action, as well as work by Grayson Perry, Keith Haring and many more.

The Urban Frame: Rebellion in Color which is at the National Horse Racing Museum and the Moyse Hall Museum to 1 October and at the Haverhill Arts Center until September 12; £7 adults/£3 under 18/under 12 free.

What now?

Horses exercising on the gallops in Athcross at sunrise
Horses exercise on the gallops at sunrise

Concurrent with the exhibition, the Crossroads in Color The initiative is bringing the energy of street art to the town. Artists, community groups and children have created murals at locations including the memorial gardens and the leisure centre. There are art installations above butterflies in the streets, shop windows are specially decorated and bars and restaurants have created colorful dishes and cocktails.

Discover Newmarket runs guided tours of the town’s main sites, including the gallops, racecourse and the National Stud, where visitors can meet mares, foals and stallions, including the former champion Stradivarius.

The Pussy Riot artwork, Putin's Worst Nightmare by Pure Evil
Prints by artists such as Pure Evil are on sale in the Moyse Hall Museum

The gift shop in Moyse Hall has the largest range of postcards, posters and limited edition prints from the exhibition. In Newport, Jewels Sells antique furniture and other vintage pieces, yes weekly farmers market at the Riverwalk Commons (Saturdays, May to October) and monthly maker’s market in the Market Square car park (next market 12 August).

When to go

Visitors can combine art appreciation with a day at the races – there are about a dozen meetings before the end of September.

Athtrasna town centre
Athtrasna town centre. Photo: Mark Westley

Find out

The IS Stour Valley Path it is a 60 mile walking route from Newmarket to Cattawade, near the Suffolk border with Essex. The IS first five thousand, to Stetchworth, included a stretch along Devil’s Dyke, a huge Anglo-Saxon earthwork that was once a defensive structure and is now a habitat for wildflowers and butterflies. On a clear day there are views to Ely Cathedral, 14 miles away.

Drinks and dinner

Fish and chips at the Three Blackbirds pub
Fish and chips at the Three Blackbirds, a pub with rooms serving excellent food. Photo: Emma Cabielles

The Bulllively high street pub, has a beer garden, regular live music, sports shows and a summer drinks menu including negroni sbagliato (£8). The PantryAn all-day cafe, deli and restaurant, serving coffee and cake, brunch and lunch, and a dinner menu with dishes such as sea bream with samphire and saffron and mussel broth (£17), or smoked squash risotto with sage and walnut pesto (£13).

In Bury St Edmunds, the Any Bull The pub serves beer from its own craft brewery, Brewshed, and wine from its shop, Vino Gusto – guests can sample a flight of five 50ml cases for £10-13. The menu changes every six weeks or so and there are daily specials – the summer menu (until September 3) includes crab tart with parsley sauce (£9.50) and salmon with new potatoes and bean fricassee (£18.50).


The Jockey Club Rooms.
The Jockey Club Rooms. Photo: PR IMAGE

The IS Jockey Club Rooms It is a country house with beautiful gardens, right in the center of Athtrasna. It has been a private members club for the horse racing elite for over 250 years, hosting royalty and at least six prime ministers. It is full of racing memorabilia and equestrian art, including more pictures by Stubbs and Munnings. A few years ago it opened 18 stately rooms to the public (doubles from £100 B&B).

The IS Three Black Pools in Woodditton, about four miles south of Athcross, is a 17th-century pub with nine cozy but contemporary rooms in a newly built barn (doubles from £82). It also serves great seasonal food, from vegan options (bubble & squeak, with roast vegetables, £17) to Suffolk rump steak with black garlic aioli and tri-cooked chips (£23).

Go there

Yes straight trains to Newmarket from Ipswich (56 minutes) and Cambridge (21 minutes).

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