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Practical as they are, estate sales aren’t for everyone. It’s depressing to rummage through the diet books, margarita glasses, lamps and chairs that were part of someone’s life a few weeks or months ago.
But a sale that features a fleet of snappy red berets, heaps of colorful, bright costume jewelry, original abstract art and a deck of Saddam Hussein playing cards must have something special going on.
Longtime arts patron Selma Hollander, who died in August at age 101, donated millions to Michigan State University, along with her husband, marketing Professor Stanley Hollander. One of her last big donations is helping to build a new building for the College of Music.
True to form, Hollander specified that MSU will also receive the proceeds from her estate sale, at the condo where she lived for more than 30 years. The Hollanders did not have children.
MSU archivists have already gone through Selma and Stanley Hollander’s many awards, letters and documents and preserved the most significant pieces. The Wharton Center will hold one last sale of Hollander’s original art later this year, with proceeds going to Wharton, but there are still quite a few abstract prints and heaps of woven art by Hollander at the condo.
Hollander taught woven art and design at MSU after moving to East Lansing with her husband, an enthusiastic arts patron, in 1958.
Selma Hollander didn’t fade from the scene after her husband died in 2004. Through her 80s, 90s and past the 100-year-mark, she remained a frequent sight at plays, concerts and art shows in greater Lansing, many of which she enabled with generous donations.
Last week, the estate sale team was busy sorting daunting heaps of stuff, from giltedged glassware, fine china and hand painted Delft pottery collected on the couple’s many travels to neglected piles of mouse-nibbled art and other printed matter in the basement.
Preparation for the sale included a marathon day of dish washing. Hollander herself was more interested in soaking up culture around town and creating her own prints and fabric art than washing dishes or keeping the house clean.
Three looms, all of them festooned with webs of unfinished work, and heaping shelves of dress material and yarn attest to Hollander’s never-ending projects.
The estate sale team, led by sale manager Denise Rokke, set up a Dumpster outside the condo to hold mind-boggling quantities of collected stuff, mostly paper, they found piled nearly to the ceiling in some areas.
Rokke’s team, and MSU Archives staff, combed through the papers for bits of history such as Stanley Hollander’s manuscripts, awards and other memorabilia.
But plenty of odds and ends were left behind, including programs and concert posters signed by visiting artists like Manhattan Marimba Quartet, from a concert series the Hollanders sponsored.
Putting the sale together, it struck Rokke that Hollander’s clothes and accessories, popping with vibrant forms and textures, resembled her art.
“She really liked nice things,” Rokke said. Upstairs, where Stanley Hollander kept an office, Rokke found an old Hermes 300 typewriter with turquoise keys and a Perkins Braille reader.
Around the corner is another work area crammed with hundreds of vintage dress patterns, bolts of fabric, dress forms, skeins of yarn, sewing machines and a loom. An enormous bed cover crocheted with geometric patterns hangs from the balustrade.
“I can just picture him hanging out here and working on his stuff, while she’s working over here,” Rokke said.
Hundreds of art books run the gamut from a blocky tome on Roman mosaics to “The Art of Bolivian Highland Weaving.”
In the basement, where moisture and mice have complicated Rokke’s job, piles of books, art and art supplies were still awaiting scrutiny last week.
A member of Rokke’s team was sifting through a box of shoes in the basement when he heard something go “ding.” Out rolled Hollander’s high school class ring from Thomas Jefferson High School in Brooklyn.
“There might be treasures, so we just have to go through it all,” Rokke said. “It’s fascinating. You get a picture of someone’s life.”
A celebration of Hollander’s life is planned at the Wharton Center’s Pasant Theater at 3 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 29.
Selma Hollander Estate Sale
Friday, Oct. 19, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 20, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. 1928 Danbury Road, Okemos (507) 461-2688 www.familytreasuresestatesales.com