A signature well worth collecting

By Jason Phelan 3:18 PM Thu 20 November, 2008

Peter Atkins with his winning artwork

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THE AFL and Melbourne's arts scene combined for a good cause on Wednesday night when the Signature of M prize winner was announced at a gala event at The Peninsula exhibition centre.

The 12 finalists in the art competition were present for the announcement, with local artist Peter Atkins walking away with the $150,000 winner's cheque. The evening, hosted by Red Symonds, was packed with local entertainment including folk bands, acrobats, performance artists and Aboriginal dancers.

The occasion also benefited the Ladder project; a joint charity venture between the AFL Foundation and the AFL Players' Association aimed at combating youth homelessness.

Competitors were asked to come up with a piece of art that captured the essence of Melbourne with Atkins' winning digital print depicting a bookshelf crammed with books containing the names of famous Melbourne landmarks, competition sponsors and other important facets of local life.

"The brief for the competition was quite broad and quite complicated as far as trying to incorporate the history of Melbourne – the fashion, the architecture, the arts, sport and everything else - into one image as well as all the sponsor names," Atkins said.

"I actually had this idea before the award happened and I just thought it was the perfect platform to tell the stories of Melbourne."

Incorporated in the evening was a silent auction of sporting memorabilia including 50 pieces of the 40m x 20m silk reproduction of the painting The Game That Made Australia. The Jamie Cooper artwork was laid on the MCG turf as part of this year's pre-grand final entertainment.

"There are really two parts to this: one of them is Signature of M … and the other is because it was going to be such a large exhibition we thought there was an opportunity to align that with the art that we had commissioned for the AFL's 150th birthday," explained the AFL's general manager of marketing and communications Dr Colin McLeod.

"Basically what we've done is cut that silk reproduction up into about 50 pieces and each one of those pieces has become a piece of art in its own right.

"They're all original and they're all unique and there are some famous images of our game. It really captures the 150th anniversary of football which reminds us all that this is Australia's game."

Former Essendon player and general manager of the Ladder project Mark Bolton was delighted with the turnout of the event which he said was one of the key fund-raising opportunities for his organisation.

"We've got really good government support, but we also need fund-raising and business community support as well," Bolton said.

"So tonight is about raising funds which is great, but also awareness as well because we are a relatively new charity."

Benjamin Jung, one of the founders of the Signature prize -- which will also go on to incorporate such famous cities as London, Moscow and New York -- said it made sense to join with the AFL when the competition came to Melbourne.

"We thought the AFL was such an important institution in the culture of Melbourne that we should try to cling onto that and raise as much money as we can for the charity," Jung said.

"It could be a few thousand or a few hundred thousand, we never really know until it's over, that will go towards that cause."
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