The Wu-Tang Clan‘s secret one-of-a-kind, Cher–featuring album Once Upon A Time In Shaolin that’s being sold to the highest bidder now has an auction going. But unless you’re willing to dish out the dough, chances are you won’t hear this album for at least 88 years, if ever at all.
The auction is being hosted by Damien Hirst, Julian Schnabel and Jeff Koons’ upstart auction site Paddle8, Forbes reports, selling what’s being called “a unique work of art” through a fittingly fancy looking microsite.
“In an age where the work of musicians is increasingly perceived as being as accessible, affordable, and expendable as a box of paperclips, acknowledgement of the profound artistry required to write a moving verse, produce a transformative album, or navigate a formidable career, is often reduced to an unread liner note. Such a scenario in the art world–if the only Picassos to be seen were postcards–is unimaginable,” says an introduction on the site.
It’s explained there that the purchase of the album does not include any rights to release the album properly — though something like touring the album around the world would be permitted. In its essence, though, the money only buys the one album and no more rights to it.
“When you buy a painting or a sculpture, you’re buying that piece rather than the right to replicate it,” says RZA in a Q&A on the site. “Owning a Picasso doesn’t mean you can sell prints or reproductions, but that you’re the sole owner of a unique original. And that’s what Once Upon a Time in Shaolin is. It’s a unique original rather than a master copy of an album.”
Producer Cilvaringz adds, “We thought long and hard about whether to defy art world conventions and transfer all rights to public release to the buyer. But we genuinely felt that a swift public release after such a radical concept would neutralize the statement we are making. So we decided that the right to release the album would be transferred only after 88 years have passed.”
Why 88 years?
“There were 8 original members of the Clan when we made Protect Ya Neck and M.E.T.H.O.D Man. The individual numbers of this year also add up to the number 8. The broker of this work carries the number 8 in its name. The number 8 on its side is a symbol of infinity, as it was used on our album Wu-Tang Forever. You can call it mathematical coincidence, but it’s always had great symbolic significance for us,” says RZA.
So what’s actually included with Once Upon A Time In Shaolin? The album was six years in the making and contains 31 tracks and runs 128 minutes long, though the final track listing will only be revealed to the buyer. All backup copies have been destroyed and the sole copy is being stored in a silver-and-nickel-plated box and jewel case at the Royal Mansour hotel in Marrakech. The package includes a 174-page manuscript containing lyrics, credits and anecdotes on the production of each song, printed on gilded Fedrigoni Marina parchment and encased in leather by a master bookbinder.
With all this hubbub, it seems worth asking why spend millions of dollars on something like this?
RZA responds on the site, “This is not something you should want to own because of the price tag, but because it’s a fingerprint, like a strand of DNA–it stands alone. It’s a piece of history, and the seal to a legacy. The buyer would be the only person in the world to possess a historic, unheard and never to be released Wu-Tang Clan album. Not a single copy or backup of this work exists–neither I nor any Clan member has a copy. There is only one.”