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Sole Copy of Wu-Tang Clan Album to be Publicly Played at Mona.

Once Upon a Time in Shaolin, the elusive Wu-Tang Clan album, renowned as the "world’s rarest album," will be publicly accessible for the first time at Tasmania’s Museum of Old and New Art (Mona). This album, previously purchased by Martin Shkreli for $2 million, will be loaned to Mona by the digital art collective Pleasr for its upcoming exhibition, Namedropping, which delves into themes of status, celebrity, and notoriety.

Recorded in secret between 2006 and 2013, Once Upon a Time in Shaolin exists in a single, meticulously crafted silver box. The album, featuring contributions from all surviving Wu-Tang Clan members and two tracks with Cher, was intended as a statement on the impact of streaming and piracy on music’s value. The producers, Cilvaringz and RZA, envisioned it as a Renaissance-style art piece to provoke debate about the future of music.

In 2015, a single two-CD copy was pressed, and the digital master files were deleted. Bound by a legal agreement, the album cannot be commercially used until 2103 but can be played at listening events. After being acquired by Shkreli, the album changed hands multiple times, ultimately being seized by the U.S. Department of Justice and sold to Pleasr for $4 million to cover Shkreli’s debts.

Mona will host free, ticketed listening sessions from 15 to 24 June, where the public can hear a curated 30-minute mix of the album, played on a custom Wu-Tang PlayStation 1 inside Mona’s Frying Pan recording studio. This marks the first museum loan of the album since its creation.

Alongside the album, the exhibition will feature David Bowie’s original handwritten lyrics for Starman, purchased at auction by Mona’s owner David Walsh in 2022. Namedropping will run from 15 June 2024 to 21 April 2025, with tickets available via Mona’s website.


Words by AW.

Photo courtesy of MONA.


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