The Art of the Deal

Skot Foreman brings big-name art to an unexpected seaside town

Foreman grew up in the Old Floresta section of Boca Raton with his brother, Tim; his father, Jim (an attorney turned judge who died from cancer in 1995); and his mother, Charlotte, who says her son "was a scrappy little guy who loved to surf and wanted to go to the beach every day."

She continues: "We traveled a lot, and I remember once, when Skot was 12, we took him to Paris to visit the Louvre, and all of a sudden he got lost." The boy had wandered off to follow another tour group. When they found him, Charlotte was amazed to hear him "recount everything he'd overheard about the exhibits. He remembered everything verbatim."

"I went to see the Mona Lisa," Foreman elaborates. "I became part of this crowd, 12 deep, that just stood there gawking. It spoke to my soul. That's what this field does for me. I know that I'll never fully be able to get my arms around the art world, because it's so dynamic and broad-based and there's so much history."

Foreman's gallery is an anchor of Main Street Dania Beach
Foreman's gallery is an anchor of Main Street Dania Beach
With vintage Miles on the stereo, Foreman chills out in his Turkish-style den with his dog, Cassie, and a glass of zinfandel
With vintage Miles on the stereo, Foreman chills out in his Turkish-style den with his dog, Cassie, and a glass of zinfandel

Foreman is uncomfortable discussing his privileged upbringing in Boca Raton, saying only that while he attended private grade schools, he "didn't feel like a part of that whole trip." That's one reason he chose to attend the University of Florida at Gainesville. While there Foreman pledged the Phi Kappa Alpha fraternity and began organizing campus concerts. Before graduating in 1987 with a degree in finance and a minor in art, Foreman helped bring artists like Sting and Elvis Costello to campus.

"Some people in the fraternity system have a tendency to stay close to their brothers," says Jeff Weibel, a travel-industry executive who has known Foreman 18 years. "But Skot was always interested in expanding his circle of friends. He was the type of guy you could count on, someone with a great heart and a great soul."

Because he enjoyed promoting concerts, Foreman thought about working in the music business after graduation. But when he shared that idea with a friend over pizza, the friend "looked at me like I'd lost it and said, "A record label? You're going to waste four years and all your parents' money to wind up in somebody's mailroom?'"

So Foreman landed a job at NationsBank (now Bank of America), allotting two years to decide if corporate life was for him. "He was a great commercial banker, very aggressive and into it," says Mike Fitzpatrick, a former banking colleague and current client of Foreman's. "But when you went to Skot's home, you got a whole different picture. The floors were painted, and there was all this art. He doesn't go to Baer's to get furniture. He buys pieces from the 1950s. Art was always his thing."

After two years Foreman left banking and went to work for the Rosenbaum Galleries in Fort Lauderdale, one of the largest art houses in the southeast. "They were a wholesale gallery that wanted to expand their corporate art sales base, and I had this business background," says Foreman. "At the time it was the perfect marriage." For the next three years, he traveled around the country to art fairs, buying, selling, and learning the tricks of the trade.

By 1995 Foreman began to think about striking out on his own. His father had died from cancer, and the young man started thinking more about his own life. Standing on his back patio, which has been modeled after a chickee with cedar pillars and a rusted tin roof, he recounts a story that his father taught him about karma: Foreman's grandfather Bob decided that upon his death his wedding band should go to his grandson. But he didn't put his wishes in writing, so one of Bob's sons (Foreman's uncle) claimed the elaborately carved gold ring. That upset Foreman's dad, who decided against starting a family feud and instead bought his son a pearly white elk's tooth set in an intricate silver band. "My father never was into jewelry, but he brought this back for me from one of his travels," Foreman says, glancing down at the ring on his left index finger. "I never take it off... and not a day goes by that someone doesn't comment on it." In business, however, Foreman learned that creating good karma is bedeviling, like making a good soufflé.

Foreman went into business with a veteran Fort Lauderdale art dealer named Larry Clemons in April 1995. They operated in a small, 950-square-foot space called Gallery 721 on Broward Boulevard in downtown Fort Lauderdale. After the partners split in 1997, Foreman opened his Dania Beach space. "Gallery 721 was a great place, and we put on some exhibitions that blew people away," says Clemons. "Essentially the business just grew larger than both of us, and our relationship started to get bumpy. But Skot's current gallery is phenomenal, and he's proven himself... and he busts his butt."

Foreman declines comment except to say: "We had a different vision, which is why we no longer do business." Several others who know the two men simply say they had different goals.

Clemons was enthusiastic about "outsider art," a controversial term used to describe self-taught folk artists like Purvis Young, whom the two men once represented together. Today Foreman still represents Young, but he also tries to "attract both European and American contemporary artists, some of whom might fall into that category of outsider."

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