The most famous street in Rio de Janeiro is the flight of stairs connecting Joaquim Silva and Pinto Martins streets in the Sant Teresa district. Officially, it bears the name of Manuel Carneiro, but most of the inhabitants of the city know the street as the “Selaron Staircase”, or “Selaron Escadaria”. The street was named after the Chilean painter Jorge Selarón, who colorfully decorated the steps as a gift to the Brazilians.
This process began in 1990, when Selaron was just beginning to renovate the dilapidated steps along the front of his house. At first, the neighbors laughed at him because of such a strange hobby, but Jorge did not pay attention to them. Gradually, the process moved from a small cosmetic overhaul to an obsession. Selaron was forced to sell his paintings in order to continue to finance the work. Ultimately, he covered the entire 125-metre, 250-step staircase with over 2,000 colored mosaics. This masterpiece of art can be safely included in the list of the most beautiful staircases in the world.
But the hobby didn’t end there. Selaron continued to work on the staircase, constantly painting on the mosaics and turning the staircase into a dynamic piece of art. Approximately 300 mosaics are hand-painted by the artist. As the popularity of this place increased, tourists from all over the world came to look at the mosaics, and their flow was constantly growing. Sales of the artist’s paintings skyrocketed, and the image of a pregnant African woman (his most famous portrait) has sold more than 25,000 copies since 1977.
The Selarón Staircase is now a popular tourist attraction in Rio de Janeiro. Her photographs have been published in many international magazines, newspapers and documentaries. She has featured in advertisements for American Express, Coca-Cola, Time, and Playboy products. Numerous music videos have been filmed in front of her.
Artist Jorge Selaron once said: “This crazy and unique dream will only end on the day of my death.” In 2013, he died mysteriously on the very stairs he had been creating for over twenty years.