Surface View Wall Coverings

Posted inID Mag
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from $151 per square foot

You may never wish to cover your walls with spooky portraits of Victorian angels, close-up renderings of the Taj Mahal, or Chinese watercolors of poisonous tomatoes. But isn’t it great to know that now you can?

A new British company called Surface View, launched this summer, is signing deals worldwide with museums, artists, and photographers to blow up images from their collections across easy-to-paste, large-scale murals. Depending on the original format, Surface View either remasters existing digital files, scans hoary transparencies, or rephotographs objects with a 39-megapixel camera, spewing the one-gigabyte files onto paper. The resolution of the resulting graphics is so high that patinas and wrinkles are visible. Customers can order customized croppings, down to a single butterfly from the corner of a Japanese silk, and the images can be applied to glass or plastic; printed fabrics are available as well, and a heat-sensitive moldable film suitable for brickwork is in development. Custom colorways and repeats are available too: A 14th-century palazzo facade can go neon, an Edward Lear songbird sketch can be cloned.

Just don’t expect any tired, gauzy Impressionists, or Lichtensteins and Warhols. “We’re after esoteric images that take on a new life when you turn them into large-format interior graphics. We don’t want to be just a photo archive,” explains Michael Ayerst, head of Surface View. (He’s also managing director of its parent company, VgL, a 31-year-old, 80-employee printing plant just west of London.)

Surface View has so far mined the image libraries of the Victoria and Albert Museum, the National Museum of British Popular Culture (which hosts a mid-20th-century kitsch trove called the Land of Lost Content), and nature photographer Nic Miller’s stockpile of seascapes, pastures, and woodlands. Deals have just been inked with Britain’s National Maritime Museum and Scala Archives (the agent for thousands of museums, including New York’s MoMA and Metropolitan Museum of Art). The company has also worked up a line called Ephemera, based on its own collection of 18th- and 19th-century illustrations of cupids, long-horned beetles, and ringleted children.

“Those are my favorites,” Ayerst says. “I found some of them myself, scouting bookshops around Oxford.” The company website shows them in their original black-and-white as well as tweaked with bright colors, scattered into allover repeats, or cropped to depict a lone cloud puff. “They’re the least popular on the market so far,” he says wryly. “But I won’t take that personally.” — eve m. kahn