Our Story

SAN FRANCISCO ART EXCHANGE LLC IS ESTABLISHED

1983


In 1983, Jim Hartley and Theron Kabrich founded San Francisco Art Exchange LLC (SFAE), as a fine art business brokering the work of 20th Century masters such as Picasso, Miró, Chagall, Warhol, Haring, Dalí and others. They soon evolved into promoting more contemporary painters, where they began exploring the importance and value of art and imagery that have become part of the popular consciousness. Rockwell, Nagel, Neiman are good examples of familiar artists who became popular through their commercial work and later went on to become collectible in a fine-art gallery format.

In the 1990s momentum encouraged us to double the size of our gallery to 3000 sq feet. We then began to incorporate Music and Hollywood photography to our makeup as a natural progression to expand the scope of the definition of collectible popular iconography.

in the 21st Century we have continued to expand our focus to representing the work of more than 200 photographers, adding important historical figures and events, along with Athletic superstars and more. Today we are recognized as the global leader in the representation and sale of the fine art of Pop Culture.

We think our early art dealing roots put us in a unique position to appreciate and frame a discussion around the artistic merit, historical importance, cultural significance and, hence, the market value for much of the art and imagery of popular culture that has surrounded us for decades.

For the curious, we have outlined our journey with some key milestones below:

SAN FRANCISCO ART EXCHANGE LLC IS ESTABLISHED

ALBERTO VARGAS OPENS THE DOOR

1985


In 1985, the Alberto Vargas Estate selected SFAE to represent their vast collection of original works by one of Americaʼs most popularly famous artists of all time. Vargas created incredibly beautiful paintings, widely-known as  “Vargas Girls” throughout his long career. He painted for The Ziegfeld Follies, all the major Hollywood studios, Esquire Magazine and Playboy, among many others.

We were entrusted to bring this treasured collection of original artworks to market for the very first time, opening the premiere retrospective during the summer of 1985. Since then we have sold more than $25 million of Alberto Vargas artwork, including original paintings, studies, and limited edition prints. We are the acknowledged authorities on Vargas artworks and the #1 dealer worldwide.

ALBERTO VARGAS OPENS THE DOOR

RONNIE WOOD JOINS THE PARTY

1987


Due in part to the immediate success of the Vargas collection, and our growing reputation in the genre of Popular Culture, in 1987 the gallery was approached by the management of Rolling Stones guitarist Ronnie Wood to become the primary distributor and dealer in North America for his new collection of paintings and limited edition prints. He made the great connection that since we had sold millions in great artwork of beautiful Pin Up illustrations, probably most of those collectors would also be fans of Rock & Roll!

Ronnie had a passion for drawing and painting since childhood and attended art school at Ealing in London, and was a serious artist, growing increasingly prolific as he began exploring print-making and continually expanding his repertoire across different media. We hosted our first exhibition with him in 1987 and since then we have amassed a huge number of avid collectors worldwide, with sales in excess of $10 million of his artwork alone. While we no longer act has his distributor, SFAE remains the all-time #1 dealer of his artwork, and his longest standing dealer.

Looking back on how it all happened, we now recognize that the selection of SFAE to represent Ronnie Wood literally launched the modern market for the Art of Rock & Roll. Not only with Ronnie’s artwork but it also inspired many friends and associates of his, especially other artists and photographers in the music realm to reconsider their own archives - many of which had sat in dusty drawers and boxes for decades - and take the leap of faith to offer them as fine-artworks for collectors.

RONNIE WOOD JOINS THE PARTY

THE PHOTOGRAPHY ERA BEGINS

1989


Our first major photography exhibit featured the work of Annie Leibovitz in April 1989. The exhibition featured nearly 50 portraits of celebrities taken for her award winning American Express campaign (1984-1987). Subjects included musicians, actors, models, politicians, and athletes, all personalities captured in Leibowitz's trademark style. The campaign won a 1988 Clio; The Andy Award for the Best Print Campaign of 1988; The Art Directors Club of New York's Gold Award in Magazine Advertising and Advertising Age's award for the best magazine advertisement of 1987.

The exhibition was co-sponsored and co-hosted by American Express and Esquire Magazine. Annie attended the opening and lectured. (Pictured at right is an example of the exhibition display from another location.)

THE PHOTOGRAPHY ERA BEGINS

A FOCUS ON ALBUM COVER IMAGERY

1990


We begin to represent the work of legendary Album Cover artist Roger Dean, who is responsible for a huge number of iconic albums from the late 1960s that continues into the 2020s. He best-known for his fantasy inspired landscapes and creature designs that graced the album covers for Yes, Asia, Uriah Heep, Osibisa, and many others.

A FOCUS ON ALBUM COVER IMAGERY

MORE TO COME!

1990 - today


...Stay tuned for more!
MORE TO COME!