How Drake’s $100 Million Bet Saved the Long-Lost Art Carnival Luna Luna

 LOS ANGELES — Earlier this year, in a 50,000-square-foot warehouse lined with weathered shipping containers and crates, the Viennese artist André Heller was reunited with one of the great loves of his life and career.

The psychedelic works inside, unseen by Heller or the world for 35 years, had long been lost to history, despite their flashy provenance. Together, they made up Luna Luna — a functional amusement park where the rides and attractions also happened to be contemporary art from the likes of Jean-Michel Basquiat and Salvador Dalí, which Heller had conceptualized and opened, briefly, in Hamburg, Germany, in 1987.

For decades, he had obsessed over its loss. “Forget about it,” he told himself repeatedly. “This is like a love affair where you can’t stop having erotic dreams.”

Eventually, Heller managed to move on. “And then,” he said via video chat from Austria, “when everything was out of my mind, I met some people that started reminding me.”

 

Haring traveled to Austria to work on his contributions. Credits: Sabina Sarnitz, via Luna Luna

In the end, it took the connections, resources and ingenuity of Heller, his musician son, a New York creative director, an art lawyer, a start-up founder, two powerful music managers and a megawatt rapper who happens to be one of the most famous people on the planet to revive the ambitious project.

That Drake would be the final piece needed to bring Heller back together with Luna Luna was almost inconceivable. Heller, now 75, didn’t even know who the rap star was until they were nearly partners.

But sure enough — following years of lawsuits, rabbit holes, cosmic coincidences, false starts, contract negotiations, strokes of luck, Zoom calls and logistical nightmares — here was Heller, once again face to face with treasures that most in the art world didn’t even realize existed: a carousel by Keith Haring, an enchanted tree by David Hockney, a glass labyrinth by Roy Lichtenstein with music by Philip Glass.

“I excused myself to the art,” Heller recalled, emotional at the memory of at last glimpsing his disassembled carnival. “I said, ‘You were in prison for 35 years — please take my love and my apologies for what has happened to you.’

“Then I started touching all these things like a newborn baby with its father,” he added. “And I knew that the soul of the project was unharmed.”

How Luna Luna came to be — and then came to be sold, locked up, shipped to the Texas desert and forgotten — was a miracle-turned-tragedy for Heller, a rascally multimedia artist who has been, intermittently, an actor, a poet, a singer-songwriter and a circus impresario, with piles of stories from each of his many lives.

But the never-before-told next chapter of the tale, in which the art amusement park was tracked down, bought back and reimagined for a large-scale reboot scheduled to begin next year, sounds far-fetched even for Heller.

 “When I first heard about Luna Luna I was blown away,” Drake said in a statement. “It’s such a unique and special way to experience art. This is a big idea and opportunity that centers around what we love most: bringing people together.”

Now, the hard part: putting Luna Luna back together, and taking it around the world.

 

Read the full article by Joe Coscarelli here

Source: The New York Times

 

KEITH HARING Luna Luna, 1987 Neon (Courtesy Vroom & Varossieau Collection)