Vampire Amusement Park Luna Luna

In the mid 1980s, Andre Heller, an Austrian artist and musician, set out to orchestrate the construction of an amusement park designed by “the most important artists of the period.” Heller put together a roster of over 30 artists for the project, including Keith Haring, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Salvador Dalí, Joseph Beuys, David Hockney, Sonia Delaunay, and Roy Lichtenstein, who were responsible for the design individual rides and attractions within the park. During the summer of 1987, the amusement park officially opened as “Luna Luna” in Hamburg, Germany where it operated for three months. It was intended to travel around Europe, however, amidst some legal and financial troubles, the plan was dismantled and the entirety of Luna Luna was sent to storage. Now, after almost 40 years, Luna Luna has reopened in a new form. In 2022, DreamCrew, a production company spearheaded by Canadian rapper, Drake, acquired Luna Luna and began setting up in Los Angeles for its grand re-opening. In December of 2023, the show was officially reopened to the public, with entry tickets starting at $30. In order to protect the art, Luna Luna is now indoors and viewers are unable to ride the artist designed attractions as they were in Hamburg in 1987. 

What do you do with a ferris wheel that’s no longer safe to ride? 

Outside Luna Luna’s current incarnation are rows of shipping containers giving the impression of the remnants of a proud archeological dig. A crowd stands in line for lemonade on blue astro turf, while children run back and forth playing cornhole. The games outside seem like a compromise for the actual show to come which is barely interactive. There are some parts of Luna Luna that gesture at a fairground activity, like Andre Heller’s wedding chapel and Lichtenstein’s maze. The number of children present was curious given the strange place the show occupies. Luna Luna LA is not an amusement park, it’s an exhibition about an amusement park. That’s a difficult idea to communicate to a child who’s not going to be impressed by names like Basquiat or Haring. 

Luna Luna wants to still be an amusement park. This seems absurd while asking viewers to look only, as a ferris wheel periodically moves without riders. In the promo material, it’s communicated that Heller’s goal in 1987 was to design an amusement park by artists. The current iteration certainly doesn’t succeed in that goal. Luna Luna wants to have it both ways: historical documentation and fairground; it’s not an easy task. The impulse makes sense. They don’t have the option to make the fair functional again, yet it might be a little sad to view these objects in a purely sterile environment, devoid of fun. Still, the attempt is odd. The DreamCrew team has included high production flourishes including lighting, new music, and hired actors to add pizazz. Daniel Wohl’s insistent musical composition, the constantly changing colored lighting, and stilt walkers try to convince you of the festive ambiance. However, Luna Luna in 2024 can’t escape the problem that untouchable objects in a warehouse can’t compete with an outdoor amusement park. 

Despite the big names, the work of lesser known artists including Arik Brauer and Monika GilSing, are emblematic of what made the fair successful in 1987. Their work provides for some of the most interesting viewing at Luna Luna. One of the first pieces you see when you enter the show is Brauer’s small merry-go-round which is at the intersection of whimsical and grotesque. An orange finger-gun with horse legs and saddle makes up one of the seats of the carousel, as does a veined moon. GilSing’s large bright, graphic fabric-banners hang in both of the two rooms. Her pieces make bold use of eyes, faces, animals, and other organic forms. Both artists’ work show the humor and pleasure in Luna Luna. 

Considering their life in shipping containers for the past few decades, the Luna Luna works are in remarkable condition or have been nicely restored. Drake’s DreamCrew has plucked motifs from all over the show and made various merch, not to mention that you can buy original 1987 t-shirts for a mere $850. The investment in the project has been considerable, somewhere around $100 million. Will investment in the Luna Luna brand lead to other possible iterations of the concept? There are rumors of a new generation of artists making Luna Luna 2.0. Then perhaps at last we will ride. 

Written by eastofborneo class 

Photo by Elizabeth Howland