Arte Drake spends 100 million to rescue Dalí and Basquiat's old amusement park

Jean Michel Basquiat died in 1988, Salvador Dalí died in 1989, Keith Haring died in 1990 and the three were united in 1987, just before leaving the world, for a project that today seems like a carnival party, a sublime and absurd farewell to art

Arte Drake spends 100 million to rescue Dalí and Basquiat's old amusement park

Jean Michel Basquiat died in 1988, Salvador Dalí died in 1989, Keith Haring died in 1990 and the three were united in 1987, just before leaving the world, for a project that today seems like a carnival party, a sublime and absurd farewell to art. 20th century: Luna Luna, an amusement park made with pieces designed by artists of the caliber of Dalí, Haring and Basquiat, opened in Hamburg in the summer of 1987. It was a popular success for one summer but the attractions ended up in abandoned containers in a town in Texas called Nocona and its memory faded for 35 years. Before Christmas, Luna Luna will reopen its doors in Los Angeles, boosted by a $100 million investment from Canadian rapper Drake.

In its old life, Luna Luna took its name from the old Luna Park, which was what amusement parks were called at the beginning of the 20th century, and was, in reality, a set of fairground attractions rather than a true amusement park. . In 2023, it will open as a large art installation rather than anything else: most of the original pieces from 1987 do not meet current safety standards and certainly do not offer the vertigo to which the park public is accustomed of attractions of our time. But his story is not like anything either.

André Heller, Austrian poet, avant-garde musician and performance artist (born 1947 and still alive), had the idea of ​​promoting an art exhibition in 1987 that would have the appearance of a summer fair. Heller, in the book/catalogue of that original Luna Luna, said that his best childhood memories were those of the Prater, Vienna's amusement park, which had been saved from post-war destruction and misery. So his desire, when inventing Luna Luna, was not to ironize entertainment culture, like so many artists of the 20th century, but to recreate the childhood fascination of the first day at the amusement park.

Heller received half a million dollars in funding from a donor at the time, turned down a sponsorship offer from McDonald's, and brought on 30 artists at the equal rate of $10,000 a piece. In other words: very little for the cachet of many of those participants: Roy Lichtenstein, David Hockney, Georg Baselitz, Kenny Scharf, Jean Tiguely and Sonia Delaunay also participated in the project and Philip Glass and Miles Davis composed music for their passages. André Heller said that the artists agreed to work for little money because the project seduced them all.

Dalí made a house of mirrors; Basquiat was in charge of the Ferris wheel; Lichtenstein, of the labyrinth; Haring, of the merry-go-round... There was also an attraction dedicated to Andy Warhol (who died in 1987, without being able to finish his commission for Luna Luna), which allowed visitors to have their photos taken next to representations of Einstein, Marilyn and Marlene Dietrich . As if they were famous for 15 minutes.

Luna Luna was open in the months of June, July and August 1987, in Moorweide, in a relatively central meadow of Hamburg, next to its largest lake. Tickets cost 20 marks, about 1,600 pesetas, and 240,000 people went through the box office. If you look at the photographs from that German summer, Luna Luna's audience was more family-oriented than artistic. There is a portrait of Basquiat with a group of euphoric children that leads one to think that the project fulfilled its initial purpose.

So, two years later, the installation reappeared in San Diego, California, as a loan to a foundation. Before opening the doors, there was a legal conflict due to breach of contracts and the Luna Luna pieces ended up sealed in trailers. And it was never known again.

It all sounds very Paul Auster, right? Since 2017, there are professionals and academics who have recovered the history of Luna Luna and who have explored the possibility of rescuing its treasures. In 2019, Michael Goldberg, a Los Angeles publicist, came across the story of Luna and Luna and made it his obsession during the pandemic. Goldberg caught the attention of Dreamcrew, a production company that Drake founded in 2017 and is responsible for, among other products, the Euophoria series. And Dreamcrew bought Luna Luna's old lumps, restored them, and put them back into the world in the form of an exhibition curated by Helen Molesworth.

What does Drake's name mean in this story? Like his colleagues Kanye West, Jay Z and A$AP Rocky, the Canadian musician has been around the contemporary art circuits for at least a decade. What is Euphoria if not the television series with the most references to Pre-Raphaelite painting, body art and video art that has reached the general public? In 2015, Drake acted as inspiration/curator of an exhibition of African-American artists for Sotheby's and has spoken on many occasions of his fascination with James Turrell, a land art artist of the same generation as André Heller. Drake has also shown a piano modified by Takashi Murakami that is in his house in Toronto, along with some works of art that refer to the history of pop music. And he himself often presents himself as a performative character. Art seems a way to ennoble and expand his own work.