Imperial Services is a consulting firm that offers a nearly infinite variety of services. In addition to the relatively new form of “Art As A Service” (AAAS), the firm offers commissioned artwork using a new model that takes advantage of art’s unique ability to produce ultra-bespoke aesthetic items. Two ideas that are central to the firm’s mission are that the service provided serves the needs of both the client and the consultant, and that the service provides something deeper than what is stated, whether psychological, aesthetic, social, or all three.
The launch of the Bay Area branch of the consultancy will take place in the form of a residency at a temporary office located within the ProArts Gallery in Oakland, Calif., Nov.-Dec. 2019. It will be guided by consultants David Fullarton, Brooke Hardy, Dan Nelson, and Lexa Walsh, who will be present in the office Thurs.~Sun., 12-6 PM to meet one-on-one with the public and prospective clients. The branch’s operations will be developed in real time during the two-month residency, with all aspects accessible to the public via documentation, printed matter, aesthetic and other objects, and open interaction with consultants.
The firm is composed of a non-hierarchical group of consultants who work together in a horizontal management structure that is continually refined by its members to suit their needs and those of clients. Operating without fixed offices in many cases, and distributed throughout the U.S., Canada, and Europe, members manage their own consultancies, as well as referring clients to member consultants in other areas, depending upon the service needed.
Examples of services might include:
- Introduce into the weekday life of a downtown San Francisco businessman 3 or 4 unexpected events.
- Provide a color consultation for paint to be applied to the back of a painting’s frame.
- Daily rebranding of a client’s coffee to that of a non-existent artisanal roastery.
- Assist Service Workers in writing cathartic reviews of their customers.
- Plan and execute custom, decorative, un-conceptual artworks to match client’s decor, charging by the hour, based on WPA wages transferred to today’s economy.
- Teach a client to rant and provide a public platform.
Although it is a platform and not itself a work of art per se, Imperial Services pursues the idea that perceptual and aesthetic experiences can be provided not only in art objects but in services. Taking a cue from Marcel Duchamp, I.S. assumes that the artist is of more interest than the art, and takes the object or experience as the mere starting point for a more dynamic, engaging experience.
Imperial Services was founded in 1956 in Chicago by Eugene Guarnieri, a semi-retired professor of psychology, amateur sculptor, and violist. As the child of a wealthy diplomat he traveled the world throughout his youth, living in Persia, Italy, Ethiopia, and Norway, eventually becoming fluent in five languages. After serving in a secretive psy-ops division of the U.S. Army in World War II, Guarnieri taught at the University of Chicago, where he came into contact with an aesthetically rarefied world created by the educated and wealthy of the city. His social ties and savvy way with people eventually translated into informal consulting sessions held in upscale hotel bars, private clubs, museums, and homes.
The firm continues today as a non-hierarchical group of consultants who work together in the horizontal management structure developed by Guarnieri and continually refined by its members. The firm has a presence in many locations in North America and Europe.