Cape Town-based visual artist Tony Gum caught international headlines last year when Vogue.com said she may be the "coolest girl in Cape Town". The Cape Peninsula University of Technology film student is the co-founder of The Local Collective — a YouTube channel where Gum showcases local "fashion, culture, places, local music, film, night life" in collaboration with Cape Town artist Philia. Represented by the Christopher Moller Art Gallery, she has exhibited her portraiture at the Johannesburg Art Fair 2015, The Cape Town Art Fair, as well as at the PULSE Contemporary Art Fair in New York City.
Gum is known for her work that explores the interplay between her African heritage and western cultural and consumerist influences. "I'm not making work exclusively for the art world or the people with big bucks," she told Elle.com. "It's not directed to brands, either. The message is for my people. There's so much richness in us that should be embodied and glorified." Her carefully curated Instagram feed has become the mood board for the exhibitions she creates.
Now she is in Miami for Art Basel Miami, an annual art fair showcasing "masters of Modern and contemporary art, as well the new generation of emerging stars". Gum will be presenting her narrative self-portraits focusing on "emergent South African-African-Global identity formation" at PULSE Miami Beach from 1 to 4 December 2016.
"There is a greater narrative that Africans are capable of sharing and I'm merely trying to figure out that narrative too," she told Okayafrica. "I want to communicate my culture, identity and the illuminating youth in South Africa."
In the past year, Gum has been catapulted into the limelight. Her work carries a "high-end appeal" according to the Financial Mail, who says that it is "an appeal that has everything to do with the artist's refusal to reductively mainline identity politics".
Gum's take on the relationship between black bodies and the brands that they interact with every day seeks to unpack how she understands her role as a young, black, African woman and what it means for young Africans around the world.