Pitt and Barbara Hyde, Elliot Perry share motivations for art collecting

By Published: March 24, 2019 2:11 PM CT

AutoZone Inc. founder J.R. “Pitt” Hyde III wrote a letter to the late artist Carroll Cloar.

“Your painting, Joe Goodbody’s Ordeal, hung behind my desk at Malone & Hyde, where I appreciated and identified with the stress and anxiety so vividly represented on this canvas,” he wrote. “That’s because I became company president when I was 26 years old and chief executive two years later.”

In those early years at Malone & Hyde Inc., Hyde said he began a regional art collection, composed of artists in the company's trade area. The collection grew to 3oo artworks, that were donated to the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art. But Hyde kept the Goodbody painting because of the way it spoke to him. Today, it hangs in the offices of the Hyde Family Foundation.

His wife Barbara Hyde, who serves as chair and CEO of the foundation, wrote a letter to the late artist Georgia O’Keeffe, about O’Keeffe’s painting “Grey and White.”

“The process of collecting art with an emphasis on American Modernism began for Pitt and me with our courtship in 1991 and continued when we married a year later,” she wrote. “The exploration, education, and discovery at the heart of collecting art can best be described as pure joy.”

And former National Basketball Player Elliot Perry wrote to the artists in his collection. That collection includes a painting called “Feels like We only go backwards” by Memphis native Jarvis Boyland.

“Our mission continues to nudge us toward the idea to collect works that not only ask questions, but push the viewer out of their comfort zones at times … all while keeping our sights set on the preservation of culture and history.”

“Dear Artist,” a collaboration between Young Arts Patrons and the Art Museum of the University of Memphis, will be on view at AMUM through June 1.

In addition to those works from the collections of Pitt and Barbara Hyde and Elliot and Kimberly Perry, other pieces (and the accompanying letters to their creators) in the “Dear Artist” exhibition are from the collections of Memphis nonprofit professionals, educators and entrepreneurs.

One of the works featured was given as a gift to a four-year-old, and the accompanying letter displayed is from the child to the artist.

“It’s not just people who are really, really rich, which is always the thing that people think about, when they think, ‘How do I support the arts,’” said Whitney Hardy, founder and executive director of YAP, a nonprofit. "It’s people who care about their city and people who care about the artists in their city.”

The more than 25 featured artists include Burton Callicott,William Eggleston, Terry Lynn, Lawrence Matthews, Lester Merriweather, Carl E. Moore, Greely Myatt, Jared Small, Katie Benjamin Steed and Cathy Worthy.

At the end of a panel discussion held in conjunction with the opening of the show on Saturday, March 9, at AMUM, Hardy asked all the collectors and artists represented in the exhibition to stand.

“This, to me, is what economic development looks like, in a different way,” Hardy said. “It’s not in a way that we can necessarily put into a funding report on the impact of the arts, but what you just saw is the impact. These are the relationships that have happened across zip codes, across institutions and more. … It’s about supporting the artists in the city and overall the impact of the arts we have here.”


Pitt Hyde University of Memphis Elliot Perry Art Museum of the University of Memphis Young Arts Patrons
Elle Perry

Elle Perry

Elle Perry covers arts and culture and other news for the Daily Memphian. She is a native of Memphis and a two-time graduate of the University of Memphis. Elle previously worked for the Memphis Business Journal and has written for publications including The Memphis Flyer and High Ground News.

Comment On This Story

Email Editions

Sign up for our morning and evening editions, plus breaking news.