‘Unheard’ Wu-Tang Clan Album To Get Mona Airing

28 May 2024 | 11:58 am | Mary Varvaris

For the first time, 'Once Upon A Time In Shaolin' will be loaned to a museum for MONA’s exhibition, 'Namedropping'.

Wu-Tang Clan's 'Once Upon A Time In Shaolin'

Wu-Tang Clan's 'Once Upon A Time In Shaolin' (Luke Fenstemaker)

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In 2014, Wu-Tang Clan announced the release of just one copy of their double album, One Upon A Time In Shaolin.

Recorded in secret between 2006 and 2013, the album was acquired by former pharmaceutical CEO Martin Shkreli for US$2 million. After being convicted of securities fraud, Shkreli was forced to hand over the album in 2018. In 2021, the US Department of Justice sold it to Pleasr for $4 million to cover Shkreli’s debts.

Once Upon A Time In Shaolin is packaged in a detailed silver box and, according to reports, features contributions from all surviving members of the group, as well as features from Cher. Want to find out what the album actually sounds like? You need to book a trip to Tasmania.

For the first time, Once Upon A Time In Shaolin will be loaned to a museum for the Museum of Old and New Art (MONA)’s exhibition, Namedropping. Visitors will be able to view the ornate box in person and listen to limited-access listening sessions at the museum’s Frying Pan Studios.

The album can’t be “commercially exploited” until 2103 – meaning that the songs will only be heard in exclusive non-profit listening parties and exhibitions for the next 79 years.

Once Upon A Time In Shaolin will be displayed as part of the Namedropping exhibition from 15-24 June. To find tickets, visit the MONA website from 10 am AEST on Thursday, 30 May.

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Jarrod Rawlins, the Director of Curatorial Affairs for MONA, said about locking in the album at the museum: “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 when I was thinking about status and what a transcendent namedrop could be, I knew I had to get it into this exhibition.”

A spokesperson for Pleasr added, “10 years ago, the Wu-Tang Clan had a bold vision to make a single copy album as a work of fine art. To ‘put it in an art gallery…make music become a living piece like a Mona Lisa or a sceptre from Egypt’.

“With this single work of art, the Wu-Tang Clan’s intention was to redefine the meaning of music ownership and value in a world of digital streaming and commodification of music. Pleasr is honoured to partner with MONA to support RZA’s vision for Once Upon A Time In Shaolin.”

Wu-Tang Clan and Nas toured Australia last May.