Drake-backed Luna Luna: Forgotten Fantasy rekindles the artistic spirit of the artist-designed amusement park


Drake-backed Luna Luna: Forgotten Fantasy rekindles the artistic spirit of the artist-designed amusement park

Luna Luna: Forgotten Fantasy displays amusement park rides designed by artists.(Jeff McLane)

For seven short weeks in the summer of 1987 in Hamburg, Germany, artist André Heller commissioned famous artists to display bespoke carnival objects. Salvador Dalí, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Keith Haring, David Hockney, Roy Lichtenstein, among others, were brought on to create carousels, pavilions, a wooden ferris wheel, and more.

A new exhibition in Los Angeles, Luna Luna: Forgotten Fantasy, puts the creations back where they belong: the public eye. Art-goers and carnival-lovers alike can bask in the nostalgia while enjoying one-of-a-kind pieces by the famous artists. Perhaps more open-air museum than amusement park, Luna Luna combines the thrills of a place like Coney Island with the halls of a more refined establishment like MoMA.

Luna Luna first debuted in Hamburg, Germany in 1987. (© Sabina Sarnitz/Courtesy Luna Luna)

When the original showcase ended its inaugural run in August 1987 there were grandiose plans to put the show on the road, with appearances slated for Amsterdam and stateside in California; but litigation concerning ownership stopped any plans for the tour. The ephemera was later packed up in 44 shipping containers in Texas. Then in 2022, Drake and his entertainment firm DreamCrew—a company bankrolled by the singer—purchased and acquired the collection from the Stephen and Mary Birch Foundation.

Luna Luna: Forgotten Fantasy spreads the objects across two warehouses where 15 of the 30 pieces on view at the Hamburg debut display. Many however will no longer spin or be ready-to-ride due to their fragile state.

Revelers entering the 60,000-square-foot space are first introduced to the Luna Luna history through video footage. The two rooms of the pseudo carnival are separated by the lit-up, rainbow-colored archway by Sonia Delaunay in the same fashion as its 1987 debut.

A rainbow-colored archway by Sonia Delaunay separates the two exhibition spaces.(Jeff McLane)

Also on view is Enchanted Trees, a signature David Hockney design, in the form of a cylindrical pavilion wrapped in cutouts conceived to mimic tree branches. Hockney modeled his design after the vivid scenes he painted for Stravinsky’s Triple Bill at New York’s Metropolitan Opera.

Enchanted Trees is a pavilion by David Hockney. (Jeff McLane)

A pièce-de-résistance of the show is Jean-Michel Basquiat’s ferris wheel. The wooden ride has a provenance dating back to 1933. Basquiat led the refacing and painting effort on the ride remotely and the piece marks the only work by the artist not worked on by his own hands. Illustrations of Basquiat’s signature stick figures were sketched across the base and on the faces of each of the cabs along with quotes and phrases. A contingency for Basquiat’s participation in Luna Luna was that his contribution would spin to the tune of Miles Davis’s “Tutu.”

Jean-Michel Basquiat’s ferris wheel features his signature stick figure illustrations. (Charles White)

Several of the exhibitors have corresponding auditory elements, Salvador Dalí’s Dalídom kaleidoscopic dome is coupled with the tunes of Gregorian chants by Blue Chip Orchestra. Roy Lichtenstein’s comic strip–influenced pavilion plays melodies by Philip Glass.

Keith Haring’s contribution is a painted carousel. (Jeff McLane)

Of a similar size and scope is Keith Haring’s carousel paired with artfully painted tarps. The artist’s recognizable characters, drawn in a range of colors and graffiti-like style, make for ideal carousel creatures.

Luna Luna: Forgotten Fantasy is on view in Los Angeles through Spring 2024.