A theme park where visitors can ride a merry-go-round featuring Keith Haring’s colorful Pop Art figurines, walk through a mirrored funhouse designed by Salvador Dalí and hop on a Ferris wheel covered in Jean-Michel Basquiat’s graffiti is coming back to life after sitting in storage for more than 30 years.
The brainchild of Austrian artist, actor and impresario André Heller, Luna Luna, dubbed the world’s first “art amusement park,” welcomed visitors to Hamburg, Germany, in the summer of 1987. But the fair soon closed and was quickly forgotten—until now. Later this month, Luna Luna: Forgotten Fantasy, a resurrected version of the theme park, will open in Los Angeles and run through spring 2024.
Luna Luna’s rebirth began in early 2022, when Canadian rap star Drake and his media company, DreamCrew, bought Heller’s park and began restoring it. Drake has spent an estimated $100 million on the project.
In addition to attractions created by Haring, Dalí, Basquiat, the original Luna Luna featured contributions from around 30 heavy hitters in the contemporary art world, including Sonia Delaunay, David Hockney, Georg Baselitz, Roy Lichtenstein and Rebecca Horn. Musicians Miles Davis and Philip Glass also gave Heller permission to play their work at the fair.
Approximately 240,000 guests visited Luna Luna in 1987. But the park lost funding, so its attractions were packed into 44 shipping containers and eventually sent to Texas.
“When Luna Luna first caught our attention, we knew we needed to be a driving force behind its resurrection,” says Anthony Gonzales, a partner at DreamCrew, in a statement quoted by the Los Angeles Times’ Todd Martens. “Not only was this a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to rediscover a lost history and share the story with the world, but [it] also gave us the ability to work with the most talented partners recreating the original vision, which still held so much untapped potential.”
The new Luna Luna will be housed inside two warehouse spaces, with about half of the 30 original installations on display. Many of the historic rides are too fragile to operate, but visitors will be able to experience new rides, as well as enjoy live entertainment, snacks and souvenirs.
“Luna Luna is so remarkable within art history, not just because of how well-known the artists were,” Lumi Tan, the park’s curatorial director, tells the Art Newspaper’s Scarlet Cheng, “but what the project represented: the breaking down of barriers between art movements, disciplines and generations; a truly successful ability to make the avant-garde accessible; and the prescient desire to immerse an audience completely in a sensorial experience.”
Heller, for his part, is thrilled that the art will no longer locked away.
“I excused myself to the art,” he told the New York Times’ Joe Coscarelli in November 2022. “I said, ‘You were in prison for 35 years—please take my love and my apologies for what has happened to you.’”
The original Luna Luna aimed in part to fight discrimination and antisemitism. Its location in Hamburg was a deliberate choice: The ground where Luna Luna stood was a former staging area for the deportation of Jews to concentration camps during World War II. Heller’s own father was detained by the Nazis but survived the war.
“Heller thought of Luna Luna as a postwar project,” Helen Molesworth, the show’s curatorial adviser, tells W magazine’s Andrea Whittle. “It asks the question: What needs to happen to make sure that fascism never takes hold again? As much as Luna Luna is a funhouse, it’s a funhouse designed to try and keep you open, curious, empathetic, and childlike so you don’t become a hard, crass person capable of hatred and antisemitism.”
According to Molesworth, the warehouse space will employ dim, romantic lighting to evoke a carnival at dusk and show off the illuminated rides. The soundtrack will be distinctly 1980s, ranging from European pop hits to music by Glass and Davis.
“What we’re hoping is that the experience is something like seeing the original,” Moleworth says. “It’s going to have a magical feel.”