Wandering through Rio de Janeiro’s neighbourhoods of Santa Teresa and Lapa we also visited the never-ending artwork of the Chilean born artist Jorge Selarón; steps made of a continuously changing set of tiles.
Initiated in 1990 as a side activity next to his painting, Selarón started to renovate the steps next to his house, using tiles in the colours of the Brazilian flag found at construction sites and in urban waste. By now the 250 steps are also filled with tiles donated by people from over sixty different countries worldwide and tiles painted by Selarón himself.
In his own handmade tiles the image of a pregnant African woman appears repetitively. Asking after the origin of the lady Selarón remained mysteriously. The only thing he revealed, is that he had known the lady in the past.
None of the tiles were meant to have an eternal lifespan by the way. Selarón removed one section of the steps as soon as he finished another, after which he replaced the removed tiles by new ones given, made or found. The steps basically became his lifework, as the artist confirmed he would work on the steps until his death.
Unfortunately this came sooner than expected. On 10 January 2013, some 7 months after we met the artist in person ourselves, Selarón was found dead on his steps. Police did not rule out homicide, saying the artist had received death threats.
Note: this post has been revised after Mr. Selarón’s death in January 2013.