Luna Luna: Basquiat, Dalì and Haring theme park re-opens in L.A.


In 1984, André Heller had an extraordinary vision: create a large, 'Avant-Garde' themed amusement park in which every ride would be designed by contemporary artists, modelled on the famous Luna Park in Coney Island.

Drake has allocated $100 million to bring the ” Avant-Garde Carnival” back to life.

What is Luna Luna Park?

Was the 1984 when André Heller, already famous artist, had an extraordinary vision: create a large, themed amusement park in which every ride would be designed by contemporary artists, modelled on the famous Luna Park in Coney Island. The purpose of the amusement park would have been – apart from fun for adults and children – to bring ‘ordinary people’ closer to the world of Modern Art, creating a ‘bridge’ between the artists – often entrenched behind a latent snobbism that prevented them from coming into contact with the masses – and the fairgoers.

In 1985, Heller received a grant of $350,000 to build the project of his dreams: he searched for leading artists and the first names popped up: Kenny Scharf, Philip Glass, Rebecca Horn, Salvador Dali, Jean-Michael Basquiat, Keith Haring. The only one to refuse, the reason is unknown, was John Cage.

Utopia was getting closer and closer: 220 craftsmen built 1900s-inspired rides, working alongside the world’s most famous artists, who had created the initial designs, manually decorating every single attraction in the park.

Highlights included a Ferris wheel designed by Jean-Michel Basquiat, a house of mirrors designed by Salvador Dali, and the classic carousel ride with horses, replaced by Keith Haring’s cheerful little men. Thirty huge pavilions, each dedicated to an artist.

Luna Luna, the ‘Carnival of the Avant-Garde’, finally opened its gates in June 1987 in Hamburg, to an estimated audience of 250,000 people.

Ferris wheel designed by Jean-Michel Basquiat – Luna Luna 1987
Classic carousel ride designed by Keith Haring – Luna Luna 1987
House of mirrors designed by Salvador Dalì – Luna Luna, 1987

The initial idea for Luna Luna was that of a travelling fair, touring Europe and the United States, but the problems Heller had to face to realize the tour were insurmountable. As a Viennese, the artist also wanted to bring Luna Luna Park to his own city, but this proved to be complicated: the Viennese municipality planned to purchase and exhibit Luna Luna permanently but withdrew due to political issues.

Heller had to get into debt to keep up the high management costs: his wonderful utopia finally died in 1990, when he sold all that remained of the amusement park for $6 million to the Stephen and Mary Birch charity foundation, which intended to exhibit the fair permanently in San Diego. The idea, however, never materialized.

Luna Luna Today: The “Forgotten Fantasy” exhibition and the reopening in December 2023 in Los Angeles.

In 2007, Luna Luna pieces were transferred to a warehouse in the Texas countryside and remained there, along with Heller’s numerous thoughts on a potential rebirth. However, in 2009, something magical happened.

The founder of Something Special Studios, Michael Goldberg, became aware of Luna Luna’s story and was deeply moved by it. He began sharing the unfortunate ups and downs of an incredible project and sought investors to revive its fortunes. He found these investors in the person of Drake, even if it was more than ten years later.

Restoration of the Luna Luna rides – 2023

Drake and the DreamCrew initiated negotiations with the Birch and Heller Foundation, successfully concluding the estimated $100 million deal.

After an extensive restoration lasting nearly two years, Luna Luna’s creations, conceived by contemporary art icons, are now ready to see the light. Alongside his entertainment company, the “DreamCrew,” Drake has reorganized Luna Luna in a spacious area and warehouses on the outskirts of Los Angeles. The exhibition, titled “Luna Luna: Forgotten Fantasy,” will run until the spring of 2024.

The choice of location, once in Europe, fell on Southern California, as the area itself gave birth to the modern amusement park industry in 1955 with the opening of Disneyland. Perhaps no other city is more interested in the fusion of art, commerce, and entertainment than Los Angeles.

While visitors may not be able to ride Haring’s carousel or Basquiat’s Ferris wheel, Luna Luna will strive to recreate some of that carnival atmosphere. Artists will be an integral part of the project, as Luna Luna will be partly an entertainment event and partly a historical exhibition documenting how André Heller created and conceived such a space.

Restoration of the Luna Luna rides – 2023

For the reopening, Luna Luna: Forgotten Fantasy will have another mission: to reclaim the amusement park as an artistic space, a reflection of the myths and dreams of our culture.

The Luna Park has always been a dream space,” says Helen Molesworth, curatorial consultant for Luna Luna and former chief curator of the Museum of Contemporary Art. She continues, “Heller was visionary in merging amusement parks and artistic institutions. I find this project very interesting because, throughout the history of 20th-century art, artists have always dreamed of breaking down the boundaries between art and life.”

Luna Luna: Forgotten Fantasy, as stated in Gonzales’ statement from DreamCrew, “is the first chapter of what will be a long-term project with a multifaceted approach exploring the world of art and its intersection with the modern world.

The team has grand ambitions to bring Luna Luna to a new generation. Los Angeles is not just the first stop on Luna Luna’s tour; it marks the beginning of a broader cultural project. If all goes according to plan, we will see a new group of contemporary artists reimagining amusement park attractions. Wills defines this goal as “the grand vision,” but Molesworth is on board, and the team is already in contact with European carousel producers. The hope is to one day organize a tour with fully functional attractions.

The current goal is to teach people the history and build the brand, showing the world not only Luna Luna but also what it means to be a Luna Luna artist. Perhaps even to further overturn the cultural perception surrounding amusement parks. When asked about the importance of these spaces, Wills provided a concise thesis for Luna Luna: “It’s an epicurean view of life, but the purpose is joy and fun. I think that’s why these spaces are important, and why we need more of them.

Amusement parks, Molesworth adds, “are one of the few places in our culture that foster intergenerational fun. There’s the parent, the child, the teenager, the dating couple: there’s a place for all these people.

A team of curators, whose members come from Tate Modern, the Museum of Contemporary Art and the Shed, will oversee the project under the guidance of art historian Helen Molesworth. This will be followed by a world tour in 2024 produced by Live Nation.

The great absentee of the project will – paradoxically – be André Heller himself, expelled for selling the drawings Basquiat made for Luna Luna. The incredible story of Art Luna Park will also become a docu-series by DreamCrew, the same company that produced HBO’s Euphoria, to be launched next February.

Amusement parks, therefore, are not just a place to play; they are spaces that perhaps help us better understand the world we live in.


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Un post condiviso da Luna Luna (@lunaluna)

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