World's Rarest Album to Be Displayed in Australia

Written by Camilla Jessen

May.28 - 2024 9:11 AM CET

Photo: PleasrDAO on YouTube
Photo: PleasrDAO on YouTube
Wu-Tang Clan's "Once Upon a Time in Shaolin" is set to make its public debut at Mona in Tasmania.

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An exceptionally rare and valuable album that only a select few have ever heard is about to be displayed in Australia, giving the public a unique chance to experience its exclusive tracks.

The one-of-a-kind album Once Upon a Time in Shaolin, created by the legendary hip-hop group Wu-Tang Clan, will be showcased at Tasmania's Museum of Old and New Art (Mona).

A Unique Musical Masterpiece

Encased in an ornate silver box, Once Upon a Time in Shaolin was secretly recorded over six years. Conceived as a fine art piece, the album features contributions from the nine surviving members of Wu-Tang Clan, as well as pop artist Cher and Game of Thrones actress Carice Van Houten.

Recorded in New York City and produced in Marrakesh between 2006 and 2013, the album was created in response to the devaluation of music due to online streaming and piracy. Wu-Tang Clan aimed to revive a Renaissance-style approach to music, treating it as a commissioned work of art.

Photo: PleasrDAO on YouTube

Mona will host intimate listening sessions over ten days in June, allowing the public to experience a curated 30-minute sample of the album. These events are part of Mona's Namedropping exhibition, which delves into themes of status, notoriety, and human ambition.

"Every once in a while, an object on this planet possesses mystical properties that transcend its material circumstances," said Mona Director of Curatorial Affairs Jarrod Rawlins. "Once Upon a Time in Shaolin is more than just an album, so I knew I had to get it into this exhibition."

A Record of Unmatched Value

Once Upon a Time in Shaolin holds the distinction of being the most expensive album ever sold.

In 2015, the album was bought by controversial pharmaceutical executive Martin Shkreli for $2 million. Shkreli streamed parts of the album to celebrate Donald Trump's 2016 election victory but was later forced to surrender it to U.S. prosecutors after his conviction for defrauding investors.

The album was subsequently acquired by the digital art collective Pleasr.

The album's presentation includes a hand-carved nickel box and a leather-bound manuscript containing the lyrics and a certificate of authenticity.

A legal agreement stipulates that the owner cannot release the 31 tracks for 88 years, maintaining its exclusivity. Producer RZA has likened the album to a Picasso painting or an ancient Egyptian artifact.

Pleasr expressed their enthusiasm for the upcoming listening sessions, noting that these events align with their "bold vision to present a single copy album as a work of fine art."

The Mona listening sessions will take place from June 15 to June 24, offering a rare opportunity to experience a musical masterpiece that remains largely unheard by the public.

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