Think of the names David Hockney, Jean Michel-Basquiat, Roy Lichtenstein, and Keith Haring, and one time period comes vividly to mind: the nineteen-eighties, the blast radius of whose explosion of shape, color, and motion encompassed everything from mainstream pop culture to the avant-garde. One could experience this through movies, clothes, paintings, graphic design, architecture, and even furniture. But did anyone really know the aesthetic of the eighties, in its full high-low span, who did not visit Luna Luna, the first and only modern-art amusement park?
Staged in the summer of 1987 in Hamburg, the largest city in then West Germany, Luna Luna was conceived by the Austrian artist André Heller. Inspired by the cultural memory of fairgrounds like Coney Island’s Luna Park and its many imitators around the world, Heller made use of all his connections to solicit designs for attractions from the superstar artists of the day.
“Visitors could get a little lost inside Salvador Dalí’s mirrored fun house and spin around on a Keith Haring carousel,” writes Atlas Obscura’s Sarah Durn. “They could take in the view from atop a dazzling Jean-Michel Basquiat Ferris wheel while listening to Miles Davis.”
Elsewhere on the grounds, writes Jessica Stewart at My Modern Met, “Roy Lichtenstein took the opportunity to design a colorful glass structure called the Pavilion of the Glass Labyrinth. Fittingly, it was accompanied by music by Philip Glass.” One wonders what John Cage would have contributed to Luna Luna’s soundtrack, but the composer of “4’33″‘ was the only artist to turn Heller down. So reports the New York Times‘ Joe Coscarelli, in a piece on the current project to restore the nearly forgotten Luna Luna (whose components have spent the intervening decades languishing in warehouses) and take it on tour. With a budget nearing $100-million, it’s becoming a reality thanks to the involvement of a surprising party: the rap superstar Drake, who knows full well the value of embodying the zeitgeist.
To complement the restoration of his project, André Heller published this year Luna Luna: The Art Amusement Park, a new book that documents in photographs this one-of-a-kind amusement park. You can purchase copies of the 300+ page book online.
Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the Substack newsletter Books on Cities, the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.