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Joe Boruchow Installs New Piece Criticizing the Union League on South Broad

February 10, 2019

A new installation tonight from Joe Boruchow holds a light up to the Union League of Philadelphia. Titled, The Union League of Philadelphia, 2019, the piece has been installed over a bus shelter ad at Broad and Spruce streets on the Avenue of the Arts.

So, pretty much every time I walk by the Union League building I get a little eye roll-y. The Union League is easily one of our city’s most prominent, outward displays of generational wealth and privilege. The building is always flanked by what looks to be some of Philly’s most affluent citizens. Even the few times I’ve gone to see the Mummers Parade on New Year’s Day and walked down South Broad street, I’ve always took notice that you can walk for blocks and blocks and blocks passing countless people bundled up and generally dressed (if they’re not a Mummer themselves) in “regular” clothes like jeans, sweatpants, sweaters, winter coats, and the such; but when you walk by the Union League you’d see their stairs neatly packed with suits and tuxes holding cocktails and champagne glasses. It just makes me cringe! I remember the first Mummers Parade I walked by this display I literally felt like I was one of Leonardo Dicaprio’s (aka Jack Dawson) friends on the Titanic headed to steerage walking by First Class. And it’s, of course, much more than the looks of it. Whenever a national Republican candidate comes to Philly to raise money, they head straight to the Union League. Mike Pence’s 2018 visit is probably the latest example of that. The Union League has always felt to me like a gross building full of systemically rich people looking to protect their generational money from, I guess, being taxed fairly.

Needless to say, when brilliant Philly street artist, Joe Boruchow, texted me tonight that he had just installed a piece about the Union League and that he installed it within eyesight of the Union League, I was excited to go photograph it! This type of installation, if you’re not familiar, is typically called an “ad takeover,” and you can read much more about how it got started and see other Philly artists who’ve done them over the years by clicking here.

To explain more about the inspiration and thought behind his Union League installation, Joe emailed me the following:

“I first started thinking about this piece in the early days of the Trump Administration, when I participated in a bunch of marches and rallies protesting the president and his administration when they visited Philly. When marching, we would almost always pass the grand, Second Empire, the Union League of Philadelphia. Practically no one noticed that there on the balconies and in the windows, chomping on cigars and derisively smirking, were the objects of our outrage delighted by the spectacle of their vanquished subjects passing before them unaware.”

“So, my fellow irate Philadelphians, the titans of industry, polluters, and tax shirkers that make specious claims to be of the party of Lincoln but are really the party of Trump, birtherism, and white male supremacy – they have a club. Right downtown. At Broad and Sansom… Their motto in latin is ‘Amor Patriae Ducit’ or ‘Love of Country Leads,’ but I changed it to Amor Pecunia Ducit – Love of Money Leads.”

If you like Joe’s work and want to show your support, he’s created a limited run of zip-up hoodies with this Union League design. You can purchase those on his Big Cartel here! Joe will be donating $5 from each sweatshirt purchase to Emerge America, a program that helps elect democratic women. Love it, Joe!

See more of Joe Boruchow’s work around Philly here!

17 Comments leave one →
  1. A. Lincoln permalink
    February 10, 2019 3:32 am

    Do you know how stupid having a Confederate flag flying from the UNION League looks. The place was literally founded to fight the Confederacy and end slavery..

    I am not rich and I’ve been in the Union League several times, yeah it’s a really nice place and I’m sure that these are outrageous, dues but there’s lots of historical stuff there and why it’s a problem for you I have no idea. If you hate Trump so much you should be a big supporter of the Union League since the upper incomes voted for Clinton, it was the lower-middle-class that supported Trump. Go rip a McDonald’s.

    • permalink
      February 11, 2019 10:39 am

      Actually, the mean income for Trumpers is $72K. Thanks for that facile summation, though. Can you name the presidents on the wall?

  2. Concerned Citizen permalink
    February 10, 2019 12:02 pm

    This is absolutely disgusting and ahistorical. The city has sponsored a display of the confederate flag ontop of the civic institution that literally funded the fight to end the Confederacy and slavery. This is equivalent to putting a Nazi flag on a synagogue. Say what you want about Trump, but the Union League is a non-partisan organization founded by both Republicans and Democrats. If it weren’t for the Union League, we probably wouldn’t be here today to admire its historical significance and architectural beauty.

  3. Walter permalink
    February 10, 2019 2:16 pm

    Im all for political comment in art but this is just uninformed. Its the same lack of understanding that the trump administration spouts As a long time member off the UL, this is just not well conceived. I think your decision to promote this and join in just demonstrates your need to read up on your history. Anyone can comment on wealth and privilege in America and there is plenty that needs adjustment, but this is just not correct.

  4. Groom permalink
    February 10, 2019 4:15 pm

    Those people in suits lined up on the stairs holding champagne were in a wedding getting a picture.

    • John H. permalink
      February 12, 2019 9:55 am

      Doesn’t matter to Joe B. He’s trying to paint a certain narrative.

  5. February 11, 2019 7:10 am

    Today’s GOP is not ‘the party of Lincoln’, though they are happy to roll that out as a thin counterpoint to any discussion about racially progressive issues. It is always played as a throw away card that everyone expects to hear, then all breath and move right on. It is never presented as ‘we are the party of Lincoln and here is how we are carrying that legacy forward today.’

    If Joe Boruchow had debuted this work immediately on the heels of the Charlottesville disaster, it would have shined a much needed spotlight on the bizarre and hateful insistence of Republicans to call the insanity there a freedom of speech issue rather than a Nazi rally, and especially the culture crushing silence by most of the GOP on the issue whose silence can and must be read as buttoned lip agreement that it is OK for Nazis and Confederate wannabes to hold Third Reich style rallies and attack the citizens of our country.

    Lacking the immediacy and power of that clear connection that even the least news savvy among us would have gotten, the bus kiosk mural comes across as an impotent nyaa nyaa without that context. As agitprop, it misses surfing the crest of that enormous news moment and all the power to make the connection that the national and international coverage would have enabled and supported.

    I like much of Boruchow’s work, but he would, and we would, benefit from his asking himself where his work, temporary and ephemeral by definition, can speak to a moment in a way that opens dialog among the common passersby.

  6. Real Talk permalink
    February 11, 2019 8:48 am

    Really disappointed in Billy Penn for posting this. Plenty of people came from nothing and ended up being a member of the Union League and those same people show plenty of community support. Isn’t that the American Dream? Yes it didn’t allow for women and people of color at some point in their history and that stigma still lingers among some members but change happened and it will take time to adjust within the new generations of wealth. A confederate flag too?? this artist has never spoken to a member i bet.

  7. John H. permalink
    February 11, 2019 3:01 pm

    So rather than making art about Philly’s very own racist hate group, the Black Hebrew Israelites, who openly spew racism in public in Center City, he would rather ‘infer’ racism and make this art against the Union League, because it fits his narrative/agenda. Partisan cuck.

  8. John H. permalink
    February 11, 2019 3:03 pm

    I usually like Joe B’s art, but he’s an ignoramus/bone head.

    The Unions League was literally founded to help support the union in the Civil War and by pro abolitionists.

  9. February 11, 2019 3:19 pm

    The UL needs to invite Joe and his family inside and Conrad too. Host a lecture or do a podcast… discuss the history of the UL, it’s library, art, building, charitable work, as well as, Joe’s artwork and his positive contribution to the City.

  10. Fellow Citizen and Patriot permalink
    February 14, 2019 1:55 pm

    IMO: Are you seeing what is there? (reporting vs. commentating) Or what you want to see? (false narrative?) …I have been going there off and on for many years. …The Union League is easily one of Philadelphia’s (if not nationally) most prominent French architecture buildings. Very similar to the Academy of Music (National Historic Landmark). And related City Hall. Are National Historic Landmarks considered outward displays of generational wealth and privilege? The building is flanked by clearly identified-two Soldiers. There is a blue service star flag in the front window. …My understanding is the Union League supports the Mummers day parade (pays them to stop and play in front). And the general public (which did not pay) enjoys the UL’s benefits. I would just be happy and watch. It is the League’s New years day celebration for members and their guests to usher in a new start. There are plenty of “regular” people who attend. Why wouldn’t enjoy an adult beverage. There is plenty “champagne of beers” in the crowd all over Broad St. Think Dilly, Dilly. …The League was founded in 1862 to support the 1st anti-slavery president Abraham Lincoln and the Union cause to maintain the republic. The anti-slavery party is still to this day is called the Republican party and does the same thing. Where else in Philadelphia or in America would you expect any Republican official and constitutionally based patriot go to visit? …You imply the League, or its members have something to do with taxes. Which in some respects there is a correlation, but there is not a causation. The Union League supports the US Constitution and the free enterprise system. Meaning; individual rights and responsibilities through limited government. This includes limited taxation by any government on its citizens and businesses. Considering up to half (45%?) of all Americans don’t pay any federal income tax; I am THANKFUL that the unfairly overtaxed citizens in the area spend money in Phila and at the Union League. …Further, all the abolitionists/Republican presidents since Lincoln have a portrait except one. The Union League has been and is a premier patriotic organization with a ridicules amounts of funds for philanthropic endeavors with a focus bettering students and Veterans. …I am certain that if you simply asked you could enjoy the exhibit in the museum which is open to the public. Or be bold ask for a walking tour though the historic building. The love of country does lead! And you can too.

  11. boogieman permalink
    February 5, 2023 3:10 pm

    The only Democrat among the club’s hall of presidential portraits is Andrew Jackson.
    Founded more than 150 years ago as an abolitionist organization to support the Union Army during the Civil War, when the Republican Party was led by President Abraham Lincoln.
    No longer the party of Lincoln, but now the party of the former Dixie-crats and the Southern Strategy, and the likes of Desantis.
    Fair play, Joe B.


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