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Convent Stairway, Rio de Janeiro

Jorge Selarón

Jorge Selarón (1947 – January 10, 2013) was a Chilean-born Brazilian painter and ceramist. He is perhaps best known for his work on the Escadaria Selarón, a world famous set of ceramic tilecover stairs located in the Lapa and Santa Teresa neighborhoods of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Selaron called the Escadaria Selarón a “tribute to the Brazilian people.” Selarón moved to the Lapa neighborhood of Rio de Janeiro in the 1980s, settling in a house next to the stairs. In 1990, he began decorating the 215 stairs leading up to the Convent of Santa Teresa with ceramic tiles. His artistic transformation of the stairs, using tiles and porcelain donated by friends and supporters, took twenty years to complete. His stairs, which were declared a city landmark in 2005, were featured in Rio de Janeiro’s bid for the 2016 Summer Olympics. Jorge Selarón was found dead on the Escadaria Selarón near his home on January 10, 2013, at the age of 65. Police did not rule out homicide, saying he had received death threats.

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Escadaria Selarón

Escadaria Selarón is a set of world-famous steps in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. They are the work of Chilean-born artist Jorge Selarón who claimed it as “my tribute to the Brazilian people” Running from Joaquim Silva street and Pinto Martins street, officially known as Manuel Carneiro street, the steps straddle both the Lapa and Santa Teresa neighbourhoods inRio de Janeiro. There are 250 steps measuring 125 metres long which are covered in over 2000 tiles collected from over 60 countries around the world. No sooner than one section of the steps were ‘finished’, Selarón started work on another section, constantly changing it so that it was an ever evolving piece of art. Selarón considered the work as “never complete” and claimed that “This crazy and unique dream will only end on the day of my death”. Originally, tiles for the work were scavenged from various construction sites and piles of urban waste found on the Rio streets. But in later years most of the tiles were donated by visitors from all around the world. Of the 2000+ tiles, 300-odd are hand painted by Selarón depicting a pregnant African woman. Selarón didn’t comment on this except to say that it was a “Personal problem from my past”. Laterly the work spilled over to steps at the foot of the Arcos da Lapa.

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