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Tuesday, February 20, 2024

Luna Luna: An art world amusement park is reborn

Hollywood loves a sequel … and inside a warehouse in downtown Los Angeles is a second act that took nearly 40 years to complete. Some of the main characters in this story include Keith Haring, Salvador Dalí, Arik Brauer, Sonia Delaunay, Kenny Scharf and David Hockney – each creating parts of a kaleidoscope that many in the art world didn’t even know existed.

It all began in the 1970s with a man named André Heller, who convinced some of the most notable artists of the late 20th century to design an avant-garde amusement park in Hamburg, Germany. Luna Luna opened its doors in 1987 – a canvas to not only look at, but to play on.

Haring designed a carousel. Hockney constructed a cylindrical forest pavilion described as an “enchanted tree.” Dalí’s geodesic dome is a mirrored funhouse. Scharf, a surreal street artist, graffitied a chair swing ride and created geometric sculptures to accompany it. Jean-Michel Basquiat painted a Ferris wheel. Roy Lichtenstein designed exterior panels for a glass labyrinth, which featured music by Philip Glass.

About 300,000 people visited the park during its seven-week run, before it was seemingly lost to history. That is, until Michael Goldberg, a New York creative director, came across an article about the amusement park, and eventually contacted Heller directly.

“André basically, over the course of an hour, walked me through everything that had happened in terms of creating Luna Luna, his hopes for bringing Luna Luna around the world,” Goldberg said. The starry art world figures had joined in, Goldberg said, because “It’s an incredible canvas to reach a wider audience.”

After debuting in Hamburg, Luna Luna was set to travel to San Diego for its American premiere. That never happened. Heller disagreed with the handling of Luna Luna’s American launch, sending both parties into years of litigation, and quietly landing Luna Luna in storage somewhere in the Texas desert.

Goldberg said his mission became bringing Luna Luna back. Doing so required the help of mega-rapper and art enthusiast Drake, whose company, Dreamcrew, invested an undisclosed sum to buy the 44 shipping containers, sight unseen.

The Luna Luna containers were brought to Los Angeles in January 2022 for their unboxing. Unfortunately, there were no instructions or manuals included. It became the job of Joel Searles’ team to restore each masterpiece back to life. “It was very fun,” he said. “We knew it was a Haring, and you’re unwrapping it like a present. It was exciting!”

Lumi Tan, the project’s curatorial director, said, “What makes Luna Luna so special is these marquee names that were locked away in this art-historical secret. André Heller saw it as breaking down the boundaries between artists of different generations and disciplines. You have Keith Haring, young pop artist, but then you also have Roy Lichtenstein, one of the founders of pop art.”

German artist Monica GilSing is one of the few represented still alive. She designed the banners, what she calls “wind images.” “It felt like going into a totally new art world,” she told CBS News. “Clowns and artists talked to everybody. So, the interaction was immediately there. You could feel that all the visitors were so happy.”

The restoration of Luna Luna, GilSing said, offers “a new insight into this magical world.”

Time has made each one of these artists legendary … which also means each piece is too valuable to ride, though parkgoers will be allowed to walk in some.

Tan said, “In art sometimes, there’s a shying-away of spectacle, like, it’s supposed to be serious and very intellectual and not so much experiential. At Luna Luna, it was the complete opposite.”

For more info:

Luna Luna(opens December 2023 in Los Angeles)“Luna Luna: The Art Amusement Park”by André Heller (Phaidon Press), in Hardcover and eBook formats, available viaAmazon,Barnes & NobleandBookshop.orgDreamcrew

Story produced by Julie Kracov. Editor: George Pozderec.

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