The world’s rarest and most expensive album, created by hip-hop icons Wu-Tang Clan, is set to be played to the public for the first time at an art gallery in Tasmania.

The record in question is the New York group’s seventh studio effort ‘Once Upon A Time In Shaolin’, for which they released only one physical copy in 2014.

The Museum of Old and New Art in Hobart has acquired the album on loan from the digital art collective Pleasr (via The Guardian). And it is due to feature in the ‘Namedropping’ exhibition, which will centre on status, celebrity and notoriety.

Recorded in secret between 2006 and 2013, the project became the most valuable album ever made, and reportedly features contributions from all surviving members of Wu-Tang Clan, as well as two guest appearances from Cher. The unique copy was housed in a silver, jewel-encrusted box, alongside leather-bound liner notes and a wax seal of the Wu-Tang Clan logo.

Advertisement

No digital downloads or streams have ever been made available, and after pressing the CD, the Clan stored it in a high-security vault at the Royal Mansour Hotel in Marrakech, Morocco. It later went to auction the following year, however came with the conditions that the purchaser could not commercially exploit the music until the year 2103.

The 88-year restriction was chosen as there were eight original members of Wu-Tang clan, because the numbers of the year 2015 added to eight, and because the number rotated made the symbol for infinity.

RZA of Wu-Tang Clan performs in Las Vegas in 2024 (Photo by Shy McGrath/Getty Images)

Recommended

The agreement also stipulated that the album could be played at listening parties, and a 13-minute medley was later played to only around 50 art experts, fans and prospective buyers at a one-off event at New York’s MoMa in 2015.

‘Once Upon a Time in Shaolin’ later went to auction, and was bought by disgraced pharmaceutical entrepreneur Martin Shkreli for $2million (£1.56m). The entrepreneur became notorious when he hiked the price of a drug used by cancer and Aids patients by 50-fold overnight.

Shkreli played clips of the album during a livestream in 2017 despite the restrictions, then tried to sell the album on eBay – and received an offer for $1.2million (£940,000), but the sale was never completed. He was then forced to hand over the album following his conviction for securities fraud, when $7.4million (£5.8m) worth of assets were seized by a federal court.

From there, the US Department of Justice sold it to Pleasr for $4million (£3.1m) in 2021, in a bid to cover Shkreli’s debts. The collective said at the time that it would find a way to make it accessible to fans and the rest of the world.

Advertisement

The upcoming appearance at the Mona gallery will mark the first time it has been loaned to a museum since its original sale. Mona will host exclusive listening parties across 10 days next month, during which the public can experience a curated 30-minute sample of the album.

Find out more about the exhibition here.

“Every once in a while, an object on this planet possesses mystical properties that transcend its material circumstances,” Mona Director of Curatorial Affairs, Jarrod Rawlins, said in a new statement (via Far Out). “‘Once Upon a Time in Shaolin’ is more than just an album, so… I knew I had to get it into this exhibition.”

The news around the valuable album comes just months after the hip-hop veterans played residency shows in Las Vegas. Titled ‘Wu-Tang Clan: The Saga Continues’, the shows took place at the Theater at Virgin Hotels over four dates – beginning with Super Bowl weekend on February 9 and 10, followed by another two concerts on March 22 and 23.

10230