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Inside L.A.'s Luna Luna: Forgotten Fantasy

L.A. has been in the news this week for the Grammy Awards and a month's worth of rain in a day, and after the city dries out, you'll definitely want to check out the art amusement park exhibition Luna Luna! 


Excerpt below from 1/5/2023 Virtuoso article by David Hochman can found here. 

 

Amusement parks are meant to be transportive experiences, but Luna Luna: Forgotten Fantasy, a stunning exhibition in L.A., is an actual time machine. Dreamed up in the late 1980s as a kind of pop-art fun fair, with rides and mechanized attractions designed by  Jean-Michel Basquiat, Salvador Dalí,  David Hockney, and others, the avant-garde  carnival opened briefly in Hamburg, Germany, before a failed world-tour attempt led to all its assets being sold off and locked away in 44 shipping containers in a Texas desert.

 

André Heller, the Viennese artist and impresario who first conceived of this high-art Disneyland, assumed Luna Luna would never emerge again in his lifetime. But during the pandemic, after NYC  creative director Michael Goldberg came across an article about  the forgotten midway and started advocating for its restoration, “the world’s first art amusement park” was buzzing all over again. Putting it back together required serious resources and someone with a top-flight network to get the job done.

 

Enter Drake (yes, that Drake), whose entertainment firm DreamCrew acquired Luna Luna’s  assets in 2022 and swiftly equipped a team to repaint, rewire, and reenergize the nearly forgotten fantasia. Today, the 60,000-square-foot complex on the edge of downtown L.A. feels like an immersive art show, not completely unlike those recently built around the works of Vincent van Gogh and Henri Matisse, but Luna Luna: Forgotten Fantasy goes a step further by actually re-creating a cultural moment, a one-of-a-kind “happening.” Nearly 300,000 people experienced Luna Luna’s rides and funhouses (including a Keith Haring carousel and a labyrinth designed by Roy Lichtenstein) before it closed, and that pioneering spirit lingers.

 

In Heller’s wedding chapel, a stage flanked by caricatures of a bride and groom, you can marry “whomever or whatever you wish,” be it your best friend or a favorite shoe. David Hockney’s enchanted tree is an opening for a quick waltz with one of the exhibit’s roving cabaret dancers. Even though visitors can no longer ride Basquiat’s Ferris wheel or graffiti artist Kenny Scharf’s painted swing – today’s stiff safety codes won’t allow it – seeing those attractions tilt and spin puts you in another time, before Google and iPhones divided our attention, when experimental art could keep you entranced for hours, and cartoon murals and glittering backgrounds were meant to dazzle and awe, not just fill up your social feeds.

 

If all goes according to plan, L.A. is the first stop of a Luna Luna tour, and there’s even talk about making the rides fully functional. For now, the show is an artful reflection on the staying power of spectacle and the wonders of a creative secret too fascinating to keep hidden away.

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