Selaron Interview: If I had a Superpower

Selaron in Rio, Brazil

Last week, Jorge Selarón, a Chilean artist most famous for his tile-covered steps in Rio, died next to his masterpiece. Back in March, we were lucky enough to see Selarón painting on his steps, and he agreed to take part in our superpower interview series. The 215 steps were one of our favourite art pieces we came across in South America. Selarón continually changed the design and invited visitors to contribute tiles from their country, which he eventually added to the steps. He also painted his own tiles, most often with the image of a pregnant woman who sometimes had his head or the head of a fish.

Selaron interview, 2012, Brazil

True to his artistic temperament, after five questions, he turned away and declared “I am painting now”, and that was that. If you’re ever in Santa Teresa in Rio, don’t miss his spectacular steps, covered in tiles from around the world.

Interview with Jorge Selarón

Selaron painting on his steps in Rio

If you had a superpower, what would it be?

I’d have enough money to travel to London and buy all the collections of tiles. England has the best quality tiles. ‘Made in England’.

Selaron Wall, Rio, Brazil

Describe your perfect day

The day that I had the idea to paint the pregnant woman in 1978.


When were you happiest?

When I went from being a simple painter to a serious, famous, genius painter. It is difficult to be both original and famous. I have painted more than 35,000 pregnantwomen, and last year I did 1,000 self-portraits.

Interviewing Selaron in 2012, Rio

What’s the love of your life?


Selaron description of his artwork

If you could have dinner with three people, dead or alive, who would they be?

Agatha Christie, Da Vinci and Michaelangelo.

Jorge Selarón

The year after we went to Rio, Selarón was found dead on his famous steps in a suspected suicide. The police also didn’t rule out homicide as Sealrón had received death threats. He was 65 when he died.

Sealrón moved to Lapa in Rio de Janeiro in the 1980s and began decorating the steps in 1990. There are 215 steps in all and they lead to the Covent of Santa Teresa. Selarón decorated the steps with hundreds of porcelain tiles donated by friends and admirers from around the world. It took twenty years to complete and when he finished he started again with a new design. It was an ongoing artwork that he called a “tribute to the Brazilian people”. Since his death, the stairs have been declared a city landmark.

Other posts on Brazil

Iguazu: excellent splendour of the universe

What to do in São Paulo the concrete forest

Saudade for the forest

Sea and Forest Hostel, Trindade review

The best vegetarian food in Rio de Janeiro

The favelas of Rio: exploring Alemao by cable car

The best of Rio de Janeiro: monkeys, samba and tiny pants

11 thoughts on “Selaron Interview: If I had a Superpower”

  1. Aaah…that’s one regret I have about our visit to Rio – we didn’t see the Selaron Stairs. And we stayed in Santa Teresa! All the reason to go back I suppose.

  2. A couple of years ago I helped a brazilian-italian artist and friend named Franco Cava on his music video that was shot right there on the stairs and with the special participation of Selarón. I was very sad when I heard the news, but he sure made a legend of himself.

    Here is the link:

    And thanks for the interview!

  3. Your pictures of Jorge Selarón are great. We will miss him very much. We send hundreds of travellers to Rio to see Art and local flavor. Jorge was a nice tangable part of that. He was always around the steps so people felt special that he woud interact with them.

  4. Have you seen this incredible short film by Brazilian visual artists? It is really incredible and the 2nd half is Carnaval in Rio which is from 10:30 pm to Dawn all condensed down to about 3-4 mins of fast forward hi def photography. City of Samba

    • Oh yes. We love that film. We, especially Steve, keep an eye on Vimeo’s featured shorts and this one was awesome.

  5. Pingback: A Guide to Rio de Janeiro – Part II – Tour of the city | A Good Life
  6. I realize the previous comments have been a while ago. But I was wondering if anyone has ever seen any of his actual painting/drawings that do not include the work on the stairs. I have several signed Selaron painting and charcoal drawings but not sure if it is the same person. They were purchased in Venezuela back in 1972-73.

    • I have 2 paintings of his, which he gifted me when I met him in 2008. I’ve tried to search online but haven’t come across any thing valuing his art. It would be good to know what his work is worth today.


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