World’s rarest album on display in Australia

World’s rarest album on display in Australia

An album so rare and precious that only a few ears have listened to it is going on display in an Australian gallery, giving the public a taste of these ultra-exclusive tracks.

Housed in an ornate silver box, Once Upon a Time in Shaolin – recorded in secret by the Wu-Tang clan over six years – was intended to be a work of art. Only one CD copy exists.

The pioneering hip-hop group’s record is the most expensive ever sold and has been loaned to the Tasmanian Museum of Old and New Art (Mona).

For 10 days in June, Mona will host small listening parties where audience members can hear a 30-minute sample of the album.

The album is part of his exhibition Namedropping, which examines status, notoriety and “the human pursuit”.

“Every once in a while, an object on this planet has mystical properties that transcend its material circumstances,” said Jarrod Rawlins, Mona’s director of curatorial affairs.

“Once Upon a Time in Shaolin is more than just an album, so…I knew I had to include it in this exhibition.”

Recorded in New York and produced in Marrakech between 2006 and 2013, the album features all nine surviving members of the group and features pop artist Cher and Game of Thrones actress Carice Van Houten.

The group felt that the value of music had been depreciated by online streaming and piracy, and wanted to take “a 400-year-old Renaissance-style approach to music, offering it as a commissioned product”.

It includes a hand-carved nickel box and a leather-bound manuscript containing the lyrics and a certificate of authenticity – as well as a legal condition that the owner cannot publish all 31 tracks for 88 years.

Producer RZA compared it to a Picasso artwork or an ancient Egyptian artifact.

“It’s a one-off original rather than an original copy of an album,” he said when the album went on sale in 2015.

As a result, only a handful of people on the planet have heard excerpts of the 31 titles.

A group of potential buyers and media heard a 13-minute sample in 2015 and disgraced pharmaceutical company director Martin Shkreli – who bought the album for $2 million (£1.6 million) , AU$3 million) – released snippets of the music on YouTube to celebrate. Donald Trump’s electoral victory in 2016.

Shkreli was then forced to turn it over to U.S. prosecutors in 2018 after being convicted of defrauding investors, and then it was sold to digital art collective Pleasr.

In a statement, Pleasr said the Mona listening parties – which will take place from June 15 to 24 – helped realize the group’s “bold vision of making a single-release album a work of art “.


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