Nifemi Marcus-Bello Bags Hublot Design Prize Top Honor

Nigerian industrial designer Nifemi Marcus-Bello was named the winner of the seventh edition of the Hublot Design Prize Monday at The Serpentine Gallery’s Magazine café in Hyde Park, London.

Marcus-Bello was chosen from eight finalists from around the world by a panel of judges including founder and curator of SaloneSatellite Marva Griffin Wilshire; artistic director at the Serpentine Galleries Hans Ulrich Obris; design critic Alice Rawsthorn, and Samuel Ross, former Hublot Design Prize winner and collaborator of the house.

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Marcus-Bello will receive an 80,000 Swiss francs cash prize, while Maya Bird-Murphy, founder and executive director of the nonprofit organization Chicago Mobile Makers, and Connor Cook, an American researcher and designer now based in the Netherlands who developed a practice of computational performance, won the Pierre Keller Award. They will receive 10,000 Swiss francs each.

Other finalists of this year’s prize included Sun Xiaoxi, Hiroto Yoshizoe, Sasha Anisimova, Luigi Alberto Cippini and Kusheda Mensah. For the first time, all of them will receive a cash prize.

The Pierre Keller Award was created last year in recognition of Swiss photographer and graphic artist Keller’s contribution to the prize. He cocreated the award alongside the former non-executive president of the watch division of LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton Jean-Claude Biver, and chief executive officer at Hublot Ricardo Guadalupe in 2015. Keller passed away in 2019.

Nifemi Marcus-Bello
Nifemi Marcus-Bello

An emotional Marcus-Bello told WWD that the recognition from Hublot offered clarity, and proved that “what exactly I’m doing is right.”

“The most important thing is to figure out how I keep chugging on in the design world, both as an independent manufacturer and designer, but also as a collaborator,” he added.

Marcus-Bello explained that his practice Nmbello Studio was founded six years ago in Lagos, Nigeria, with the mission of looking into contemporary productions and solutions that are available on the African continent, and creating contemporary design solutions — be it sandblasted lamps, bookshelves, or dining chairs — for “Africans who live in a global world and who tend to live a different life to their previous parents.”

A-Cold-Wall’s founder and creative director Ross, who designed a special edition of Hublot’s Big Bang Tourbillon earlier this year, said there are a few things that made Marcus-Bello stand out.

Firstly, he speaks “the same design language that manufacturers speak and engineers speak and that enabled him to be able to design with costs in line but also to be able to design with efficiency in mind and speed to market,” Ross said.

“The other point [that] is really interesting about his body of work is that he’s looking at the anonymous in his local environment. The cultural implications of design that you see on Tuk Tuks, or what you see on street vendors, or on T-shirts being hung from scaffolds within Lagos.…He has a global appeal where it’s enough of a Western perspective and it’s enough of a West African perspective, to mediate living in a household in Islington with a piece of his furniture as well as living in a beautiful palace in Lagos,” he added.

Hans Ulrich Obrist, Philippe Tardivel, Alice Rawsthorn, and Samuel Ross during Hublot Design Prize.
Hans Ulrich Obrist, Philippe Tardivel, Alice Rawsthorn and Samuel Ross during Hublot Design Prize.

Obrist thinks that this year’s prize expanded the notion of design, as it included designers from various fields, and offered great visibility for these young creative talents.

“For me, it’s a great experience. I am on many juries and this is one of my favorite juries in the world because each year we discover things in design we don’t know about here,” he added.

Philippe Tardivel, chief marketing officer at Hublot, said this year he was particularly impressed with the diversity of the practice and also the geographical spread.

“We have people from China, Japan, Africa, Europe, and even an illustrator from Ukraine. It’s very important to have that diversity. At Hublot, we always want to be unique and different, and this competition gives us a good sense of what’s coming next,” Tardivel said.

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