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Beach-area restaurateur Matt Haley’s collection includes a giraffe made from reclaimed metal medallions.

THE COLLECTOR: Matt Haley of Rehoboth Beach
WHAT I LIKE: Edgy art with a message by artists I connect with personally
INSPIRATION: A Van Gogh exhibit in Washington, D.C., maybe 15 years ago. I understood his work because I read his biography before I went.
FAVORITE ARTIST: Rembrandt. No one, before or after, has been able to capture light so beautifully.

Top Left, clockwise: Haley rests beneath “Midsummer Night’s Dream” by Jeff Schaller, his favorite living artist. The painting features actress-Olympic diver Esther Williams;Two of the first pieces Haley bought were these geometric platform reproductions by Michael Heizer.; Jeff Auxer, a glass blower from Berlin, Md., created these three colorful pieces.; Jeff Auxer, a glass blower from Berlin, Md.,created these three colorful pieces. 

 

As a restaurateur, Matt Haley creates dishes that are consumed by the eye before they are ever tasted.

As an art collector, he looks for pieces that satisfy his appetite for meaning, works that touch the heart and soul.

His affinity for both palate and palette has evolved over the years. In the beginning, friends dragged him to a museum. Despite his resistance, Haley was moved by what he saw and came to embrace such masters as Miro, Tintoretto and Rembrandt.

Haley’s vision shifted to living artists after a trip to Cuba, where he was impressed by Alain Fernandez Ferreira, founder of a colony of artisans.

“He is creating cutting-edge art and also teaching children not to be oppressed in a communist country,” he says. “Today, I only buy art from people I know, artists I care about personally.”

Passionate collectors often face a dilemma in finding a place to display it all. In addition to his home, Haley hangs art in the ocean-to-table restaurants operated by his management company, SoDel Concepts. Many of his Cuban works are displayed in Papa Grande’s Coastal Taqueria in Fenwick Island.