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The Art of the Deal

Meet Skot Foreman, a 36-year-old Boca Raton native who once was a successful corporate banker with a stable (and sizable) income but gave it all up. These days he can make $100,000 in a single day. Or he can earn nothing in weeks. He owns an art gallery and deals in contemporary fine art, which he says is the high-stakes journey of a lifetime. "That's not to say it's all about being glamorous," Foreman clarifies. "This is no fucking romance. It's a grind."

Foreman's days at the mill, or rather at his chic gallery, are filled with the potential to make lots of moola. At six-foot-three, with a 190-pound build sculpted by yoga, surfing, and regular gym workouts, Foreman radiates a personable, self-assured aura that serves him well. Not only does he attract established artists (he doesn't represent newbies), he appeals to clients seeking a knowledgeable and trustworthy negotiator to help them build one-of-a-kind collections.

Foreman has worked hard during the past ten years to distinguish himself in a region that, from West Palm Beach to Key West, is rife with both honest purveyors of art and scammers. So what makes him unique? For one thing his gallery is located in Dania Beach, far from the gallery meccas of Palm Beach, Boca Raton, South Beach, and Coral Gables. For another he lives in a modest-size home in Fort Lauderdale. And perhaps most significant, he recently made the gallery circuit's A list, as evidenced by his selection to exhibit at last month's prestigious Art Miami, South Florida's largest fair. (In this, its 11th year, Art Miami chose 135 galleries from around the globe; only 15 from South Florida.)

On this day, with less than two weeks to go until his Miami debut, Foreman seems incredibly calm. "I'm hoping we'll do well," he says in a deep monotone, referring to himself and his assistant, Ellen Prowler.

At 2 o'clock on a mild January weekday afternoon, Dania Beach's antiques district, a two-mile stretch on Federal Highway, is bustling. Shop owners are busy arranging old clocks and bric-a-brac in plate glass windows, lunch crowds bob in and out of taverns, and Foreman, parked on the sidewalk at the white-columned entrance to his eponymous art gallery, is hoisting a sculpture of a male torso made of coiled steel onto his GMC pickup.

"The madness has begun," Foreman quips, outfitted in a sleek black knit top, tailored gray wool slacks, and black leather loafers. But the twinkle in his piercing gray eyes says madness is a good thing. The winter season is off to a good start, and the snowbirds are in a buying mood.

Today, for instance, a couple in South Miami's Deering Bay Estates have told Foreman they want to give their three-bedroom bayfront condo a facelift. The art dealer hopes the $22,000 torso by Ira Sapir is just the thing. (Sapir is a well-recognized sculptor who lives in New York City's Chelsea neighborhood and whose works are featured at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.) For a night the clients will try out Sapir's artwork, plus four other pieces from Foreman's gallery, an arrangement he calls "selling on approval." Foreman could garner $70,000 from the sale.

The next morning Foreman slowly paces the concrete floors of his airy, sunlit gallery, a 6000-square-foot space housed in the historic Dania Bank Building. As three huge ceiling fans shaped like palm leaves whirl 20 feet overhead, Foreman juggles calls on two cellular phones. On one line he promises a client a prompt call back. On the other he speaks with the buyer from Deering Bay. (Citing privacy concerns, Foreman declines to furnish names.)

"Yes... of course I understand.... I'll be there today...." The affluent couple, Foreman says, were pleased with the artwork, but a family member who had dropped by for a visit didn't like the torso. Still, they plunked down nearly $20,000 for several other pieces, including a molded glass and stone sculpture by New England artist Thomas Scoon. "I usually get better odds than that, closer to 50 percent of what clients take on approval," the dealer says. "But, hey, that's show business."

But Foreman isn't a showy guy. True, he's a promoter and salesman. But if he's playing a role, he does so with a sincere, down-to-earth manner that brings to mind Kevin Costner. Foreman talks about pieces of art like living organisms capable of bonding with humans. "You look at the quality of the piece, the technique, the control, the balance of the composition, the rhythm of it," he says. "It's like you can't put definition to a piece of good jazz or blues, but you know it's some good shit.

"I'm trying to bring a quality international aesthetic here [to address] the lack of an arts movement," he continues. "Nobody's going to come up with a new aesthetic. It's all been done. But the arts are becoming more diverse, and eventually we're all going to be in one skin."

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Afefe L. Tyehimba

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