Umlauf Sculpture Garden and Museum Suffers Break-In

Damage was sustained to indoor gallery, outdoor shed, and artwork on display


The Umlauf Sculpture Garden and Museum was broken into the evening of July 19, resulting in multiple damaged windows and doors, artwork vandalized and items stolen.

An outdoor sculpture garden located in the Zilker Park area, across from Barton Springs Pool, the Umlauf has a permanent collection of figurative sculptures by sculptor and long-time University of Texas professor Charles Umlauf. In addition to the more than 50 Umlauf sculptures on the grounds, the museum’s indoor gallery hosts a rotating roster of contemporary artists.

The current exhibition, which opened in January, features Houston-based artist Ling-lin Ku, winner of the 2020 Umlauf Prize, an award for an emerging sculptor.

Ku’s conceptual installation, primarily a three-foot-tall tea ball water tower sculpture, was severely damaged in the break-in.

“The damage to the Museum was distressing enough, especially during these difficult times. But an important object by Ling-lin Ku was also damaged. We take security seriously at the Umlauf and are doing everything we can to help our artist restore this sculpture,” says Umlauf Curator Katie Robinson Edwards. “We plan to have a virtual reopening of Ling-lin’s wonderful installation once everything is repaired.”

The incident occurred around 11 p.m. the night of July 19, with Austin Police Department officers arriving at the scene alerted to the break-in when the gallery alarm to went off. Museum officials declined to comment on whether there was security footage or security personnel present the night of the incident.

Computer hardware was stolen, in addition to the damage to the artwork and to the building itself. The suspect also managed to break into a storage shed behind the gallery building.

The crime comes at a volatile time for the museum, which, like other arts organizations, has suffered significant revenue loss due to COVID-19 closures.

“The Umlauf is losing nearly $500,000 in revenue due to the pandemic,” said museum director Sarah Story. “An infusion of private and corporate philanthropy in the next few months will be vital to the Umlauf’s survival beyond March 2021.”

The museum, which sits on city property, has been closed by city mandate since July 3, with staff splitting their time working from home and at the site.

Museum representatives took to social media the morning after the break-in to spread the news and solicit donations. As of this article’s press time, the Umlauf was able to crowdsource over $2,315 to help remedy the incident.

In their social media post, the Umlauf encouraged anyone with information about the break-in to contact APD.

Mary K. Cantrell
Mary K. Cantrell
Mary K. Cantrell is an Austin-based freelance writer and journalist. She has journalism and women’s and gender studies degrees from the University of Texas and a fondness for covering local arts stories.

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