The Selaron Steps of Rio de Janeiro

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Rio de Janeiro’s most famous street is actually a flight of stairs connecting the streets of Joaquim Silva and Pinto Martins in the Lapa and Santa Teresa neighborhoods. Officially it is known as the Manuel Carneiro street, but most people know it as “Selaron Steps” or “Escadaria Selarón”, named after the Chilean born painter Jorge Selaron, who famously decorated it as a “tribute to the Brazilian people.”

It all began in 1990 when Selaron started renovating the dilapidated steps that ran along the front of his house. At first, neighbors mocked him for his choice of colors, as he covered the steps in fragments of blue, green and yellow tiles – the colors of the Brazilian flag, but he remained undeterred. In fact, as time passed this little side project of his became an obsession. Selaron mostly scavenged for materials from construction sites, but sometimes he was forced to sell his paintings to fund his work. Eventually, he had covered the entire 125-meters-long, 250-stepped stairs with over 2,000 colored tiles.


Photo credit: Vincent Poulissen/Flickr

But he was hardly finished. Selaron continued working on the stairs, constantly swapping tiles so that it was an ever evolving piece of art. As the popularity of the steps increased, visitors from all around the world began donating tiles and Selaron started using them instead. Today, the stairs boasts of being decorated with tiles from over 60 countries. About 300-odd tiles are hand painted by Selarón depicting a pregnant African woman — his most famous portrait which he had reportedly sold over 25,000 copies since 1977.

The Selaron Steps are now a landmark of Rio de Janeiro. It has been featured on many international magazines, newspapers, travel shows, and documentaries. It has appeared on commercials for products like American Express, Coca-Cola, Kellogg's Corn Flakes, Time and Playboy, to name a few. Numerous music videos has been shot with the steps as background.

Selarón was once quoted as saying, “This crazy and unique dream will only end on the day of my death".

In 2013, Jorge Selaron was found mysteriously dead on the famous steps he spent twenty years building.


Photo credit: Rodrigo Soldon/Flickr


Photo credit: Jack Zalium/Flickr


Photo credit: Jack Zalium/Flickr


Photo credit: Jack Zalium/Flickr


Photo credit: Jeremy Reding/Flickr


Photo credit: Ronald Woan/Flickr


Photo credit: Jeremy Reding/Flickr


Photo credit: dany13/Flickr

Sources: Wikipedia / The Guardian

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