When you hear Warren Weisberg say, “We have paintings and sculptures that are extremely frightening,” you know you’re going to be in for an interesting time.

Warren, president of Consolidated Chemical Works (CCW) in Chicago, is an art collector.

“The first piece of art my wife Anne and I bought was at an art fair in Old Town, Chicago, in 1967,” says Warren. “We still have that piece.”

One thing led to another, and the Weisbergs now have an extensive art collection, including works of art by many of Chicago’s distinctive modern artists. The artwork is displayed in their home and at work.

Although he doesn’t know exactly how many pieces of art are in the collection, Warren sent me a 17-page list of the artwork that he has on display at Consolidated Chemical Works.

“Some of the things we have in our workplace are things that Anne found a bit harsh for her taste, along with artwork that has something to do with the janitorial and custodial cleaning profession, or the materials that we make,” says Warren.
Industry-related pieces include a pallet, except that it’s made of fine, elegant mahogany. Another piece is called I.R. Art and features a sculpture of a man with a urinal for a head. Regardless of whether the art fits with the jan/san distribution industry, Warren prefers art that requires some mental exertion.

“Some of our stuff is a little weird,” he says. “But some of it is also minimalist. You just have to decide to change your perception of what art is…or isn’t.”

For example, in the middle of one wall is a panel of elevator buttons with strange sayings and notes on them.

When he chooses a piece of art, Warren asks himself all kinds of questions about it. “Is it emotional?” “Does it have meaning?” “Does it fit with where it’s going to be placed?” And, of course, “Do I like it.”

“When I see it and like it, I buy it,” he says. “Some things strike me as ‘I really like it and I would not want someone other than myself to have it.’”

Warren’s goal is to make CCW an interesting environment for the people who work there.

“The artwork here is quite eclectic,” says Anthony Trombetta, CCW’s director of marketing and sales. “There are many different items that look like ordinary objects placed around the office. But, when I look at these things in more detail, I realize they are works of art. Some of the pieces really blend in, and at first, you don’t recognize them as art.”
Warren invites people to come by the facility, located just west of downtown Chicago, to view the art collection. I plan to do so on the way to next year’s ISSA/INTERCLEAN show.

Gretchen Roufs, a 25-year janitorial supply industry veteran, owns a marketing and public relations company in San Antonio. To suggest someone you think should be featured in “Freetime,” contact her at Gretchen@GretchenRoufs.com.