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 claims it as "my tribute to the Brazilian people". In 1990, Selarón began renovating a dilapidated steps that ran along the front of his house. At first, neighbours mocked him for his choice of colours as he covered the steps in fragments of blue, green and yellow tiles – the colours of the Brazilian flag. It started out as a side-project to his main passion, painting but soon became an obsession. He found he was constantly out of money so sold paintings to fund his work. It was long and exhaustive work but he continued on and eventually covered the entire set of steps in tiles, ceramics and mirrors.
Running from Rua Joaquim Silva and Rua Pinto Martins, officially known as Rua Manuel Carneiro, the steps straddle both the Lapa and Santa Teresa neighbourhoods in Rio 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 are 'finished', Selarón starts work on another section, constantly changing it so that it is an ever evolving piece of art. Selarón considers the work as "never complete" and claims 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. Today however, most of the tiles are 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 doesn't comment on this except to say that it is a "Personal problem from my past". In recent years the work has spilled over to steps at the foot of the Arcos da Lapa.
The work has featured in many famous magazines, newspapers, travel shows, documentaries and commercials. National Geographic Channel, American Express, Coca-cola, Kellogg's Corn Flakes, Time and Playboy are just some of the media that the steps have appeared in/on. It has also featured in numerous video clips such as Snoop Dogg's Beautiful and U2 also filming there. It is also considered an iconic tourist attraction of Rio de Janeiro with travellers from across the globe visiting it every day. In 2009 the steps were featured in Rio's emotive 2016 Olympic bid video clip "The Passion Unites Us". The steps was also featured in the show The Amazing Race 18 where teams are tasked to find a tile resembling a route info sign.