Bruce Halle, the founder of the wheel retailer Discount Tire, who was known in art circles for his collection of Latin American art, has died at 87. The Art Institute of Chicago, which has put on shows that were partly funded by Halle and his wife, Diane, confirmed the news.
Halle and his wife, Diane, had been mainstays on the ARTnews “Top 200 Collectors” list, having made appearances every year since 2008. They started collecting Latin American art in 1996 and later formed their own private collection, the Diane and Bruce Halle Collection, which includes around 300 works, by such artists as Tunga, Ana Mendieta, Hélio Oiticica, Felix Gonzalez-Torres, Gego, Jac Leirner, and Mira Schendel. 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 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, Lygia Clark, and others, is “the most important collection of art by Latin American artists in the world.”
Shows of works from the Halle Collection later followed 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.
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 America.