"An artist is someone who lives their life as an artist, and every now and then, things spill out of them as a byproduct of that life -- that is art. That is something beautiful, meaningful and poignant. Rest of it is a manipulated commodity. It's pretty disgusting to make money out of something soulful. Art becomes a piece of your soul, unfortunately that's being forgotten. Auction houses are not helping," Jafri, who studied fine arts at Oxford, told IANS.
The young Dubai-based artist, who is credited with raising millions of dollars for philanthropic causes across international boundaries, created the highly-valued Royal Polo Painting -- which incorporates the hand-prints and signatures of members of royal families in the United Kingdom and UAE, as also India's erstwhile royals, along with the world's leading Polo players Adolfo Cambiaso and Nina Clarkin, among others -- last June.
According to Jafri, the painting was auctioned to raise funds for the Royal Foundation, the charitable vehicle of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and the Duke and Duchess of Sussex. Interestingly, the painting went for 200,000 pounds and was bought by Sanjay Jindal, founder of Gurugram's La Pegasus Polo Centre -- where the painting was recently unveiled by the artist himself.
The unveiling happened during an exhibition match of a polo series between La Pegasus India and Argentina All Stars teams, which was also attended by Argentinian envoy Daniel Chuburu. The overall series ended in a tie.
Jafri, who has been recognised by the United Nations for his artistic and humanitarian feats, has done paintings celebrating the lives and careers of some of the world's best sportspeople -- David Beckham, Alex Ferguson, Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, and Usain Bolt, apart from two on Nelson Mandela and Barack Obama, among others, and says he would never paint for "arrogant money-men".
"I don't wear anything designer; Money buys me time to paint and celebrate careers of people I believe in. I have rejected requests from arrogant money-men who don't really understand humanity or humility or the sense of the soul.
"My paintings are about universal consciousness, the idea that we're all connected, we're all one and we all need to feed back into the universe," the Esquire Middle East Man of the Year 2018 explained.
Saying that a limited set of auction houses have a "complete and utter monopoly on arts", and that they often manipulate the prices and the buyerss to make money, Jafri opined that the great period of arts is certainly not now.
"I'd fight for it and create soulful things, and through creation, raise money for causes of humanity. The fact that auction houses don't do that, I find extraordinary, and they're not feeding back into society, which is where art comes from in the first place. It has been a hypocritical load of smoke and mirrors for a long time, and it's time we stopped falling for it."
The Royal Polo Painting, which Jafri calls a beacon of the spirit of world Polo, is now mounted at Gurugram's La Pegasus Polo Centre for viewing by lovers of the sport.
(Siddhi Jain can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org ilt;mailto:email@example.com;)