One of my favorite sites in all of Rio de Janeiro is the Escadaria Selarón. This stairway from Lapa to Santa Teresa has 250 steps covered in tiles from all over the world. Chilean-born artist Jorge Selarón worked on them from 1990 until he committed suicide on the steps on January 10, 2013.
He lived in this modest house on the steps and relied on donations to pay his rent. He didn’t make any money off the project. One of the tiles incorporated onto the steps is a picture of Selarón himself.
One of the joys of visiting the steps is to take a closer look at all of the tiles. You’ll find some very interesting ones. Selarón was always changing the tiles, so the steps were never the same and it was constantly changing work of art.
Some tiles feature pop culture icons like the Simpsons, Bob Marley, Michael Jackson, and Coca-Cola. One set of tiles highlighted favela life.
Other tiles were sent to Selarón from people all over the world for inclusion on the steps. A diverse range of countries such as Kazakhstan, Egypt, Israel, Italy, Chile, Colombia, Greece, are just a handful that are represented.
There are also several US cities represented, including Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and New York.
Many tiles commemorate important events, such as the year 2000, the 500th anniversary of the “discovery” of Brazil, or a trip to Brazil.
A large set of tiles at the bottom of the steps explains Selarón’s “madness”. Whether he was mad or not, his steps brightened a neighborhood and have brought joy to countless visitors.