Bruce Halle, the founder of the tire and wheel retailer Discount Tire, who was known in art circles for his and his wife, Diane’s, collection of Latin American art, has died at 87.
Halle and his wife, Diane, had been mainstays on the ARTnews “Top 200 Collectors” list, having made appearances every year since 2008. Prior to their marriage, in 1999, Diane had started a collection of Latin American art, which Bruce later supported. On the occasion of a 2001 exhibition of works from their collection at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Diane said of the decision to buy Latin American work, “When I became serious about actually collecting, I wanted to have a region that was my own, one that I could explore by myself.” Bruce was also a serious collector in his own right, and counted among his holdings sculptures by Aristide Maillol, Jean Arp, and other modernist masters and antique posters related to tires.
Together, the Halles formalized the Diane and Bruce Halle Collection, which includes around 500 works, by such artists as Tunga, Ana Mendieta, Hélio Oiticica, Felix Gonzalez-Torres, Gego, Jac Leirner, Lygia Clark, and Mira Schendel.
“I’m very proud to have been associated with them,” Roland Augustine, a partner at Luhring Augustine, who has been a longtime adviser to the Halle Collection, said. “Diane and Bruce revealed themselves as true patrons who remain steadfast in supporting educational initiatives. They were not speculators; they were not buying art as investments.”
Shows of works from the Halle Collection have been presented at the Art Institute of Chicago and the Phoenix Art Museum, the latter of which has received money from the Halles. Last year, after the Halles and Discount Tire gave the institution a new grant, the Phoenix Art Museum began presenting a free-access day each month. The Halles have also supported various shows at the Art Institute, including its current Tarsila do Amaral retrospective, which will travel to New York’s Museum of Modern Art later this year.
The Diane and Bruce Halle Foundation also supported the Hammer Museum’s recent exhibition “Radical Women: Latin American Art, 1960–1985,” the Whitney Museum’s 2016 Carmen Herrera survey, a traveling survey of Cuban art that stopped at the MFA Houston and the Walker Art Center, and the Museum of Modern Art’s Lygia Clark and Joaquín Torres-García retrospectives, among other exhibitions, and gave to programs at the Berkeley Art Museum & Pacific Film Archive and the Norton Museum of Art in West Palm Beach, Florida.
“Bruce was an incredible philanthropist and human being,” Mary Sabbatino, a vice president and partner at Galerie Lelong in New York, said in a phone conversation. “He was beloved in the art world. He had a great sense of humor.” She added that the Halle Collection, with its significant holdings of works by Mendieta, Clark, and others, is “the most important collection of art by Latin American artists in the world.”
Bruce Halle was born in 1930 in Springfield, Massachusetts, and has for much of his life been based in Arizona. In 1960, he founded a tire store in Michigan; it later grew into Discount Tire, the tire and wheel retailer which currently has some 950 locations. According to Forbes, Halle was the 144th most wealthy person in the United States.
“Bruce Halle and Diane Halle have been great pioneers, along with a tiny handful of other collections, in the U.S. to push forward both the collecting and appreciation of modern and contemporary Latin American art in this country,” Edward Sullivan, a leading scholar on Latin American art, wrote in an email. “Their promotion of the work of many famous and also obscure (to many) artists, and their generosity in lending to exhibitions and donating to museum collections mark this couple as crucial to the health of the art from south of the U.S. border in all parts of the States.”
Beverly Adams, who is a curator of Latin American art at the Blanton Museum of Art in Texas, served as a curator for the Halle Collection for over 15 years. Adams spoke of the couple’s generosity, well-known to employees of Discount Tire, in regards to sharing with the public the contents of the collection. That collection, she said, “defied what was seen as Latin American art from the view of many U.S. institutions.”
“They embraced the material and amassed this collection with the idea of sharing it and creating knowledge within the United States,” Adams added. “They wanted to push the field and knowledge of this art forward, and open people’s eyes to the richness and diversity of these works from Latin America.”
Maximilíano Durón contributed reporting.