The rap star has invested nearly $100 million to bring back the ambitious 1987 carnival
What happens when you call up some of the greatest artists of the 20th century—including Jean-Michel Basquiat, Salvador Dalí, Philip Glass, Keith Haring, David Hockney and Roy Lichtenstein—and ask them to design an amusement park?
In 1987, Austrian artist André Heller did just that. The result was Luna Luna, a carnival that Heller created to be a “bridge between the so-called avant-garde—the artists who were a little snobbish sometimes and didn’t connect with the masses—and the so-called normal people,” he tells the New York Times’ Joe Coscarelli.
Luna Luna was successful but short-lived. It opened in Hamburg, Germany, but soon financial woes and bureaucratic back-and-forths sent the park into storage, where it collected dust for decades. Heller had long-accepted that Luna Luna was over, he tells the Times.
Then, one financial investor turned everything around: Aubrey Drake Graham, better known as rap mega-superstar Drake.
How did a whimsical art experiment that got lost to time end up receiving nearly $100 million from Drake? The story begins in 2019 with Michael Goldberg, a creative director and founder of Something Special Studios. Per the Times, Goldberg stumbled across a website detailing Luna Luna’s story and was immediately charmed.
He brought the story of Luna Luna to DreamCrew, Drake’s creative business venture. “Within a 30-second conversation of ‘this existed,’ we were all in,” Anthony Gonzales, a partner in DreamCrew, tells the Times. Gonzales now serves as Luna Luna’s chief executive.
As Goldberg and Drake’s DreamCrew were becoming enthralled with Luna Luna, Heller had already been thinking about reviving his project. After months of negotiations, Heller agreed to place Luna Luna in the hands of Drake and his team. Speaking with the Times, the Austrian artist compared DreamCrew’s sudden interest to “when you promise your child a swimming pool and then somebody comes and is like, ‘Wouldn’t you like to have the Mediterranean Sea?’”
The restoration of Luna Luna is in full swing in Los Angeles, and an American tour is slated for fall 2023. An international tour will follow in 2024, per Artnet’s Vittoria Benzine. The new Luna Luna will feature original pieces—some of which will be on display as artwork instead of up-and-running rides—alongside newly commissioned pieces in the spirit of the original Luna Luna.
Ahead of its global tour, Luna Luna will reissue the original Luna Luna book, translated from German to English, which tells the story of the 1987 carnival. The book is scheduled for release on February 15, 2023.
Heller, however, is no longer affiliated with the reboot. He left the project after the Austrian magazine Falter’s Matthias Dusini revealed that he had presented an artwork he made himself for sale as a Basquiat original. While he said his actions were simply a “childish prank,” the Luna Luna team decided it was best for him to part ways with the project.
“I am passing the baton to the partners of Luna Luna, who have the energy, vision and respect to keep the spirit of Luna Luna alive,” says Heller in a statement, per the Times. “It feels miraculous that the artworks from Luna Luna will again see the light of day, and I am honored that a new generation around the world will experience the wonder of Luna Luna for many years to come.”
Ella Malena Feldman is a writer and editor based in Washington, D.C. She examines art, culture and gender in her work, which has appeared in Washington City Paper, DCist and the Austin American-Statesman.