Don Driver

b. 1930d. 2011

Also known as:

  • Donald Sinclair Driver

Don Driver was born in Hastings but moved with his family to New Plymouth in 1944. Initially employed as a dental technician, from 1969 to 1992 Driver worked at the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery to better support his art practice. A self-taught artist, Driver is recognised for his use of vernacular materials in a diverse range of works including painting, sculpture, collage and assemblage

Early notable works include a mural commemorating the 1933 trans-Tasman flight of Charles Kingsford-Smith, featured at New Plymouth airport (extant from 1966 to 2019), and the sculpture 'Cats' (c.1963) installed at Pukekura Park, New Plymouth. In 2013 this work was replace with a replica.

Often attracting controversy, in 1982 the work 'Ritual,' consisting of ten 44-gallon drums topped by children's dolls with goat-skull heads holding pitchforks, all mounted on a cart, was declared bad taste and an embrace of the occult. The Govett-Brewster Art Gallery was prevented from purchasing the work by civic council politicians on the basis that it was offensive. The National Art Gallery (now the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa) subsequently bought the work in 1989. At the time the National Art Gallery curator Robert Leonard described 'Ritual' as "one of the most controversial and despised works of New Zealand art history".

In 1999 "Don Driver: With Spirit 1965 - 1998", a retrospective exhibition, toured New Zealand.

See also:

Don Driver, 'Untitled Construction' (1982), University of Auckland, City Campus, Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland

Images: Bronwyn Holloway-Smith, Public Art Heritage Aotearoa New Zealand, 2021