Wu-Tang Clan’s rare album “Once Upon a Time in Shaolin” to debut at Mona in Tasmania

A unique musical artifact emerges from secrecy
Wu-Tang Clan The Saga Continues... The Las Vegas Residency - Opening Night
Wu-Tang Clan The Saga Continues... The Las Vegas Residency - Opening Night / Johnny Nunez/GettyImages

An album so rare and valuable that only a few ears have ever listened to it is set to go on display at the Museum of Old and New Art (Mona) in Hobart, Tasmania. The Wu-Tang Clan’s legendary seventh studio album, “Once Upon a Time in Shaolin,” is unlike any other. Why? Because only a single copy was ever made, and the masters were intentionally destroyed.

The artistic journey

Recorded in secret between 2006 and 2013, this rare album features the nine surviving members of the Wu-Tang Clan. It even includes collaborations with pop artist Cher and “Game of Thrones” actress Carice Van Houten. The group felt that the value of music had been cheapened by online streaming and piracy, so they took a bold Renaissance-style approach to music. They envisioned the album as a commissioned commodity, akin to a priceless work of art.

The exquisite details

“Once Upon a Time in Shaolin” is housed in an ornate silver box, reminiscent of a treasure chest. The album includes a hand-carved nickel box and a leather-bound manuscript containing lyrics and a certificate of authenticity. However, there’s a catch: the owner cannot release the 31 tracks for 88 years. It’s a unique original, more akin to a Picasso artwork or an ancient Egyptian artifact than a typical album.

From pharma bro to public display

The album’s intriguing journey doesn’t end there. It was previously owned by pharmaceutical entrepreneur Martin Shkreli, who bought it for a staggering $2 million. Shkreli, known for his controversial actions, streamed clips of the music on YouTube to celebrate Donald Trump’s 2016 election victory. However, he was later convicted of defrauding investors and forced to hand over the album to US prosecutors. It was then sold to the digital art collective Pleasr.

A curated listening experience

From June 15 to 24, Mona will host small listening parties, allowing members of the public to experience a curated, 30-minute sample of this musical masterpiece. Mona’s Namedropping exhibition, which explores status, notoriety, and the human pursuit, will feature the album prominently. Mona Director of Curatorial Affairs Jarrod Rawlins aptly describes it:

"Every once in a while, an object on this planet possesses mystical properties that transcend its material circumstances. ‘Once Upon a Time in Shaolin’ is more than just an album, so… I knew I had to get it into this exhibition."

As the Wu-Tang Clan’s rare album emerges from secrecy, it captivates music enthusiasts and art lovers alike. Its exclusivity, artistic vision, and enigmatic journey make it a true cultural phenomenon. Don’t miss this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to glimpse the world’s rarest album at Mona in Tasmania.