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On January 11, Jorge Selaron, the Chilean artist who took an ugly, urine-soaked stairway in the Lapa area of Rio de Janeiro and turned it into a tourist spot by adding ceramic bathtubs full of plants and tiling the stairs in primary reds, yellows, and greens, interspersed with decorative tiles from all over the world…died on those same stairs, just outside the door of his home.

Details of his death are still being withheld, but it appears that his charred body was found on the steps in front of his house early in the morning of January 11, 2013. Initial reports about the death can be found here and here.

Later reports indicated uncertainty about the manner of his death, and whether it was suicide or murder. In any case, it is now to become the stuff of legend. I’m sure Selaron would approve, since he liked being “the most photographed artist in the world.”

I had first visited the Selaron Stairs (Escadaria Selaron) in August 2012, and returned just this past Christmas in December 2012. During the August visit, Selaron was sitting on the stairs chatting with visitors, as he did most days.

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In December, he was nowhere to be seen, and his workshop next to the stairway was closed up (we’d stopped in during our August visit). We figured he was traveling; turns out, he might have been in hiding.

Despite the fact that Selaron himself is gone now, it is still worthwhile to visit the Selaron Stairs, to see what a little imagination and an artist’s personality can do to change the face of a city.

Here are more photos I took during the December trip. The August photos can be viewed here. Here I concentrated on getting tiles from various locations and icons in the world. In particular, see if you can find Bob Marley, the South Africa tiles, Tarzan, and the Chat Noir. By the way, the pregnant man is Selaron’s iconic self-portrait.