A time capsule is typically a small cache of significant items representing a specific period in history — newspaper clippings, photographs, memorabilia, and other cultural artifacts. However, in early 2022, a different type of capsule (and certainly one much larger than usual) was discovered after being hidden away for over three decades inside 44 shipping containers, most recently in the small town of Nocona, Texas. What does it contain? A complete amusement park.
Luna Luna, a “art amusement park” that once operated in the 1980s with rides and attractions designed by legendary artists such as Jean-Michel Basquiat, Salvador Dal, Keith Haring, and Sonia Delaunay, is now on display for the first time in 36 years. The immersive installation experience, titled Luna Luna: Forgotten Fantasy, debuted last Friday in Los Angeles. When visitors enter the sprawling 60,000-square-foot warehouse space where Luna Luna is now housed, they are instantly transported back to the heyday of many of the artists whose works are featured: Keith Haring’s vivid line drawings surround his hand-painted carousel, and David Hockney’s cylindrical “Enchanted Tree” looks like a prop from a Disney movie. Stilt walkers, costumed characters, and puppeteers from LA’s long-running children’s theater company, the Bob Baker Marionette Theater, meander around in homage to the jugglers, plate spinners, mimes, and other theatrical performers who contributed to the spectacle’s original iteration.
The park, which first opened in Hamburg, Germany, in the summer of 1987, was the brainchild of Austrian artist, author, and pop star André Heller. Heller first imagined Luna Luna more than a decade ago, inspired by the Prater amusement park in his hometown of Vienna. In a 2022 interview with the New York Times, Heller said he hoped to “build a big bridge between the so-called avant-garde — the artists who were a little snobbish sometimes and did not connect with the masses — and the so-called normal people.”
“The reason why all these important artists participated for so little money was because I told them, ‘Listen, you are constantly getting the greatest commissions; everyone wants your paintings or sculptures, but I am inviting you to take a trip back to your own childhood,” he told curator Dieter Buchhart in 2016. “Really, without exception, everyone answered by saying, Sure, that‘s a nice, pleasant challenge.”
Basquiat contributed designs (that bore reference to his earlier works, such as anatomical drawings) that were painted onto a white Ferris wheel, which featured a massive rendering of a baboon’s butt in its center. Dalí built Dalídom, a pavilion containing a mirrored geodesic funhouse that was a continuation of the surrealist funhouse he created for the 1939 New York World’s Fair.