Our Story

SAN FRANCISCO ART EXCHANGE LLC

Established 1983


Founded in 1983 by Theron Kabrich and Jim Hartley, SAN FRANCISCO ART EXCHANGE LLC (SFAE) has represented historic Pop Culture artworks created by over 200 of the world's most accomplished and important artists and photographers.

Recognized as market pioneers and premier purveyors of iconic imagery, SFAE has featured over 100 major curated exhibitions highlighting music, film, cultural events, and historic figures.

SFAE is known worldwide for record-breaking sales of album cover related and important artwork from Pop Culture and has successfully represented and sold such revered artworks as the originals for:

Pink Floyd: The Wall, Abbey Road, Meet The Beatles, Rubber Soul, Imagine, Dark Side of the Moon, Wish You Were Here, Ummagumma, Animals, Lamb Lies Down on Broadway, The Best of The Doors, Candy-O and many more.

In addition to these music-related artworks, SFAE has also handled the sale for a number of original movie poster artworks including those created for Cool Hand Luke and The Sting, among others.

SFAE's sale of a complete, 7-piece matched set of The Beatles Abbey Road Album Cover Session by Iain Macmillan at $900,000 stands as the highest price ever paid for Rock & Roll Photography.

And, our sale of the original painting for the Pink Floyd: The Wall movie poster (a.k.a. The Scream) by Gerald Scarfe at $1.85 million, stands as the highest price ever paid worldwide in both the Rock & Roll and Movie Poster Original Artwork categories.

While maintaining its leadership role within the world of Rock & Roll artwork, SFAE is broadly focused on important artwork from all spheres of Popular Culture including film and entertainment, sports, advertising, civil rights, and historical events.

All artworks sold by SFAE are signed by the artist or their estate representative and will be accompanied by a certificate of authenticity. Items ship insured all over the world.

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

SAN FRANCISCO ART EXCHANGE LLC

THE EARLY DAYS OF SFAE LLC

1983


Jim Hartley and Theron Kabrich founded 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.

Read on to see how it happened!

THE EARLY DAYS OF SFAE  LLC

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

1991


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.

We hosted a major exhibition in 1992 that received coverege on MTV and an overwhelming response from his fans. Roger had over 700 attendees that night form a line that ran halfway down the city block!

A FOCUS ON ALBUM COVER IMAGERY

MARILYN MONROE & OTHER FILM ICONS

1993


In 1993 we expanded the offerings of iconic photographs with an exhibition featuring the work of the legendary Bruno of Hollywood (Bruno Bernard 1912-1987). His images and mentorship of Marilyn Monroe when she was just starting as a model paved the way to her first Hollywood contracts. In a heartfelt letter to Bernard, Monroe acknowledged his pivotal role, writing, “Remember Bernie, you started it all.”
MARILYN MONROE & OTHER FILM ICONS

THE NEW ERA OF ROCK N ROLL PHOTOGRAPHY

1997


Inspired by the suggestion of London-based photography agent Raj Prem, Theron agrees to coordinate an exclusive multi-media event celebrating the Rolling Stones Rock 'n' Roll Circus in the gallery.

For the event, Theron encouraged Raj to locate photographers who were at the Rock 'n' Roll Circus to produce large format fine art prints to offer for sale. Upon doing so, Raj and Theron opened the door to many more subjects and photographers who until that point had never exhibited or considered offering their work for sale.

SFAE began to incorporate a growing number of photographers including Gered Mankowitz, Robert Freeman, Pattie Boyd and many more, most of which continue to work with us to this day.
THE NEW ERA OF ROCK N ROLL PHOTOGRAPHY

RECORD PRICES ON BEATLES PHOTOGRAPHY

2000


In our first exhibition of Beatles photography with Robert Freeman - who captured the imagery that appears on five of their early album covers, among many other things - we began to witness the cultural milestone that established the rock 'n' roll fine art market.

Up to this point, this genre of artwork were typically selling in the $500-$1,500 range. At this exhibition, we achieved the first major sale of a rare original Beatles album cover photograph at the record price of $15,000.

This sale captured the attention of even more artists and photographers, who previously were not interested in making the effort to print and exhibit their work, allowing us to further expand opportunities for collectors.
RECORD PRICES ON BEATLES PHOTOGRAPHY

SELECTED EXHIBITIONS

2003 - 2020


2003     
ETHAN RUSSELL - REAL MOMENTS WITH EXTRAORDINARY PEOPLE 

Featuring the work of Ethan Russell, multi-Grammy Award nominated photographer, author, and director. Ethan is the only photographer to create album covers for The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, and The Who - among others.

2004     
THE ART OF THE ALBUM COVER

Curated with London agent Raj Prem, this exhibition included 130 original photographs and paintings that were used as album covers. There had never been a more comprehensive selection of images offered by any gallery or institution.

2005     
PATTIE BOYD - THROUGH THE EYES OF A MUSE

SFAE hosted Pattie Boyd's first ever solo photography exhibition, opening on Valentine's Day 2005. The event received global accolades and generated thousands of news stories.

JIMI HENDRIX - CAN YOU SEE ME? A LIFE THROUGH THE LENS
Featuring the work of twenty photographers who knew and worked with Jimi participated in the event and attended the opening reception. Several traveled from the UK and Europe and others came to San Francisco from all over the US to reunite and remember this great icon of rock 'n' roll.

It was the first time many of these photographers had met, and they all bonded over their shared experience.

2006
WIDE ASLEEP - THE ALBUM ART OF STORM THORGERSON
Featuring work from both Hipgnosis and StormStudios.

2007
TERRY O'NEILL - KINGS AND QUEENS, PORTRAITS OF ENTERTAINMENT NOBILITY
In a career dating back to the 1960s, portrait photographer Terry O'Neill has captured such luminary rock n' roll icons as The Beatles and The Rolling Stones, as well as such Hollywood idols as Sean Connery, Audrey Hepburn, Frank Sinatra, and of course his former wife, Faye Dunaway. He has even photographed the British Royal Family and the family of the British Prime Minister numerous times.

'67, '68, '69 - YEARS THAT MOLDED A GENERATION
From the bookends of 1967's fabled Summer of Love to the tragedy at Altamont in December 1969, the joys and disappointments of a decade that caused a sea change in American and ultimately global culture were condensed into an epic three years and nowhere was it more intense than in San Francisco.

2008
ETHAN RUSSELL - THE ROLLING STONES 1969 TOUR - LET IT BLEED
An exhibition of behind the scenes photographs from one of the most legendary tours of all.

STORM THORGERSON - MIND OVER MATTER: THE IMAGES OF PINK FLOYD
An exhibition of photographs celebrating the album cover art of Pink Floyd in their 40th year as a band.

DOMINIQUE TARLE & MICHAEL COOPER - THE ROLLING STONES, BEGGARS TO EXILES
An exhibition of rare images of The Rolling Stones from 1966-1971 that capture some of the most dynamic and creatively productive years of this legendary group.

2009
MARILYN MONROE & JAMES DEAN: FOREVER YOUNG

TERRY O'NEILL - FRANK SINATRA & ELTON JOHN

2010
ROSA SAT, MARTIN WALKED, BARAK RAN

BEATLES TO BOWIE

LOVERS OF COVERS

2011
JIM MARSHALL - POCKET CASH

2012
JIM MARSHALL - THE ROLLING STONES 50TH ANNIVERSARY

2013
GRACE SLICK - ONCE UPON A TIME


JIM MARSHALL, JOEL BRODSKY, BARRY FEINSTEIN - ICON MAKERS: THREE MASTERS OF THE ALBUM COVER

GRAHAM NASH - THIS COULD BE YOU

2014
DUFFY - DAVID BOWIE FIVE SESSIONS

SELECTED EXHIBITIONS