The enigmatic story of the Wu-Tang Clan rappers and the most expensive album in the world

Wu-Tang Clan was crowned king of hip-hop in the nineties from Staten Island with its violent and sexually explicit lyrics. The colective secretly recorded between 2006 and 2013 the album ‘Once Upon a Time in Shaolin’. In 2015 printed one single copy on two CDs, which were stored in a luxurious leather and silver case, and the digital master files were removed. Since then, only a few people around the world have heard it.

At that time the creators signed a legal agreement that stipulated that the album, which consists of 31 tracks and includes a leather-bound manuscript containing the lyrics and a certificate of authenticity, could not be used for any commercial purpose for 88 years, until 2103. The rarity of the album was intended as a statement about the impact of streaming and piracy on the value of music. But ‘Once Upon a Time in Shaolin’ became part of the legend.

Wu-Tang Clan auctioned the album in 2015, which was acquired by Martin Shkrelia pharmaceutical magnate, for $2 million that made headlines when increased the price 50 times of a drug used by cancer and AIDS patients overnight. At that time, the businessman promised to publish the album if donald trump won the 2016 presidential election. When he won, Shkreli published a few excerpts online.

He later attempted to sell the album on eBay, where the price reached $1.2 million, but the sale was never completed. In 2018, the tycoon was convicted of securities fraudand the album was seized by a federal court.

In 2021, the US Department of Justice sold it to PleasrDAO for 4 million dollars (3.67 million euros) to cover Shkreli’s debts. The digital art collective stated at the time that it would find a way to make it accessible to the world.

«Mystical properties»

Now, ‘Once Upon a Time in Shaolin’ will be shown to the public for the first time in its history. He Museum of Old and New Art (Mona) from Tasmania, South Australia, will showcase it between June 15 and 24 and will include a thirty-minute small group listening series.

The album is part of the sample ‘Namedropping’, which houses some 200 objects and works of art related to names of special “status” such as Porsche, Picasso or Pompidou, and explores that notoriety and “the human quest.” “Every once in a while, an object on this planet has mystical properties that transcend their material circumstances. ‘Once Upon a Time in Shaolin’ is more than just an album, so… I knew I had to include it in this exhibition,” Jarrod Rawlins, Mona’s director of Curatorial Affairs, said in a statement.

The museum caused a strong controversy in Australia last April, when it hosted the performance ‘Ladies Lounge’, by Kirsha Kaechele, to which was only allowed the entrance to women. Kaechele indicated that his goal was to reflect “historical gender segregation.” A man who was denied entry sued the museum for “discrimination” and a court ruled in her favor, forcing Mona to admit men

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