Don Driver Mural Conservation

22 Mar 2019

A high-quality replica of Don Driver’s Kingsford Smith mural will feature in a prominent setting outside New Plymouth Airport’s new terminal building, as a full-scale model designed to withstand all weathers.

The company that runs the airport, Papa Rererangi i Puketapu (PRIP), has given the go-ahead for the approximately $60,000 resin-based replica.

The work is too large to mount inside the new terminal building, and art experts have advised that the original, created in 1966, is too fragile to display outdoors, says New Plymouth Airport CEO Wayne Wootton.

PRIP is working on the replica with Conservator Detlef Klein, who oversaw another replica of a Don Driver work, Cats, which is in the main playground in Pukekura Park.

“The original will undergo conservation work before it goes to its permanent home, which is likely to be Puke Ariki,” says Mr Wootton.

“We’re talking to the artist’s family about how best to display this iconic work, celebrating the first-ever passenger-carrying crossing of the Tasman. After listening to public feedback, people clearly love it and we want to do it justice. The resin replica will take a prominent place in the Airport precinct, giving locals and visitors the best view of it in the natural light that Don Driver made it for,” Mr Wootton says.

Govett-Brewster Art Gallery Curator Paul Brobbel says: “Relocation of the mural to an outdoor setting via a proposed resin replica provides the ongoing display of Driver's work while providing the rare opportunity to conserve the original artwork. A new outdoor setting will establish a fresh role for the mural and place it in an enlivened context.”

The new terminal will deliver a world-class travel experience to more than 600,000 users each year when it is up and running in 2020. The Airport is a commercial operation and the terminal redevelopment project will be entirely funded from Airport revenues, including landing charges, commercial rents and car parking charges. No rates money is being used.

Fast Facts about the mural

  • New Plymouth City Council authorised the Don Driver mural for a price “not to exceed 300 pounds” when the existing terminal was built.
  • The work commemorates Sir Charles Kingsford Smith’s 1928 crossing of the Tasman Sea in the Southern Cross, a three-engined Fokker F.VIIb/3m aircraft.
  • Don Driver (1930-2011) made it by hand on very thin sheets of aluminium for its original setting just above what is now Air New Zealand’s bag drop area.
  • The six 1.22 by 2.44 metre panels were originally set flat against the wall about 2.5 metres above the floor.
  • In the 1980s the mural was hung from the ceiling further inside the building and set in a curved mounting with a blue border around each panel.
  • The replica of Don Driver’s Cats is set in the main playground in Pukekura Park. He made the original in 1960 to decorate a drinking
    fountain in the park and it is now in the collection of the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery.