The Art of the Race

JMD Rebellion

The design of the Rebellion Racing cars made a splash at the last 24 Hours of Le Mans race.

They were the creation of a contemporary artist, Tomyboy, who brings personality to objects by combining street art with his signature use of intense fluorescent colours. Interview and portrait of a rebel; genuine and extremely secretive.

A Ferrari GTC4 Lusso, covered in an explosion of fluorescent colours started it all.

The rather flashy car, parked at Baselworld, the showcase event of the watchmaking industry, caught the eye of Calim Bouhadra, director of Rebellion Corporation. This was exactly what he was looking for, for the Rebellion Racing cars which were to run in the legendary 24 Hours of Le Mans race three months later. Upon enquiry, he found out that the man behind this spectacular creation was Tomyboy, a contemporary artist, well-known for his unbridled creativity, marrying street art and fluorescent colours. A meeting was promptly organised with Alexandre Pesci.

Between the iconoclastic artist and Alexandre Pesci, proprietor of Rebellion and of LEMO, it clicked immediately. The same passion, the same refusal to compromise. “It was like meeting with family, you know”, says Tomyboy with a laugh. “We share the same DNA.” Everything was quickly decided: Rebellion Racing, the small car racing team who had been shaking up some of the major constructors in world endurance races, would express its rebellious spirit by creating spectacular “art cars”. It was a first for Tomyboy – “I had done supercars, but never racing cars”.

With his tattooed pirate-like looks, hoarse voice and using some very colourful language, the man is extremely easy going and warm. He is also a very private person. His real name? No comment. His age? Never mind. This “very shy guy” gives very few interviews and even prefers to wear a mask during his public appearances. “My art loves the lights”, he explains, with reference to his iconic fluorescent and glow-in-the-dark creations, “I don’t”.

In a very pop art style, Tomyboy takes every opportunity to “rework” consumer products, with a clear preference for luxury items. Why objects? “I love to create art you can really use and take outside, into the street: jackets and watches you can wear, cars you can drive…” He breaks their codes and makes them unique, just like a tagger who transforms a plain, boring wall into a unique work of art. This is why he refuses to sign up with brands for creating mass product lines. How about colours, these fantastic neon colours? It’s all about expressing and sharing joy. “When I look at art around myself, everything looks so dark, you know, quite depressing. Me, I like to make people happy and this type of colour makes people – young and old – happy. With them, things get a new life. They glow like a smile makes a face glow. And if people are happy, so am I: it’s all about sharing.

Now, he had to apply this approach to the two Rebellion R13 cars and their backups, as well as on the Rebellion Racing stands in Le Mans, as it was decided to go for a 360-degree operation. In addition to this, there were the Cadillac, the Mercedes 600 Pullman and the MacLaren cars which were to participate in the traditional pilot’s parade, as well as the Rebellion Motors garage in Lausanne and on 20 RE-Volt watch models by Rebellion Timepieces. All of this in 2 and a half months. Tomyboy bursts out laughing: “Normally, a project like that takes 6 to 8 months and you plan it a year ahead! But I said yes, because I just wanted to do it, you know. So, we worked from the morning to 3 a.m, every [expletive] day!

To begin with, the artist let himself be inspired by the design and form of the car. Together with his graphic design team, he implemented his ideas progressively on 2D files. Forms, images, texts and colours… He tries, shifts and shuffles, replaces, finetunes. Little by little, the car adopts a new personality. The creative process, specific to each object, starts all over again. Race cars, with their modern design were fairly easy to accommodate. However, the Pullman from the sixties gave him headaches. “This car is history! I didn’t want to destroy its classic shape, make it look like a Disney car, you know! I needed to find the right way to flip it.

There was a lot of going back and forth between the artist and the Rebellion team. Some of his favourite phrases – an intrinsic part of his creations – were discarded. “Because I can afford it” may sound grand in the world of luxury, but Alexandre Pesci has a solid respect for the value of things. “I don’t want to be a slave to the system” could raise eyebrows among the authorities of the International Automobile Federation. Positive elements, such as “Because we are rebels” or “Good times”, were selected instead. Such adjustments were not a problem for Tomyboy: “I like to be aligned with the people I’m working with, we need to share the same feeling.”

All the visuals were then reworked in 3D, to ensure that the stickers match perfectly with the cars’ curves. Once the design phase was finished, production was launched. For stickers displaying particularly vibrant fluorescent colours, Tomyboy turns to car tuning specialists. When in Hamburg, he works with CiFol Werbetechnik and when he is in Los Angeles he works with West Coast Customs, who became popular through MTV’s “Pimp My Ride” show.

Once the stickers arrived, they were cut to exact dimensions in Hamburg and sent to Switzerland and France to apply the designs. Tomyboy spent 3 days in Lausanne to work on the Mercedes, the McLaren and the Cadillac. Then they rushed to Le Mans to cover the race cars in 5 days. One team worked on the two black cars (the stickers were applied directly on the carbon body), while another team sorted out the two white cars, which first had to be covered in white, before placing the RocketByz stickers. The Rebellion teams then did some more adjustments before placing the other stickers (car numbers, sponsor logos, the drivers’ names).

At each project stage, the deadlines were pushed back, but in the end everything was ready. The race cars, the parade cars, the stands… even the 20 Re-VOLT watches, which each has an individual design– a single design for this limited series would have been way too easy! “That was insane” says Tomyboy with a laugh, “but we made it thanks to a great teamwork!

In any case, the results were spectacular.

The universe they created reminds you of a “Mad Max” which would have been filmed in the sixties. Destructive looks, street art iconography, a joyful explosion of fluorescent colours. “It is unique, flashy and positive!” says Alexandre Pesci. The concept is entirely RocketByz and perfectly Rebellion.

With Tomyboy, the Swiss team brought a breath of fresh air and a pinch of madness to the 160,000 spectators who crowded together in the streets of Le Mans for the drivers’ parade (Parade des Pilotes).

Tomyboy, who attended, hidden behind a mask, allowed himself to be carried away by the passion of the mythical race, launched on the next day. “It was a shock I hadn’t expected. Unreal. Everything and everyone was so intense. The speed, the ups and downs, the team… it generates crazy feelings. I was not a race car fan before, now I am!

After many twists and turns (and a collision), Rebellion finished 4th and 5th. Racing giant Toyota and its cars powered by unbeatable hybrid engines, took the first two places on the podium. Thanks to these results, the Swiss team won the title of WEC Vice World Champion 2019 in the LMP1 category.

It wasn’t only a sporting feat, but also artistic. The “freak” RocketByz cars made a sensation in Le Mans and their images received specialised media coverage around the world. “Everybody fell in love with Rebellion!”, says Tomyboy. It was an excellent marketing coup for both Rebellion and himself.

From the artist’s point of view, there was something more to it than visibility. “I was confident some people would love my work, but I never expected that big reaction! I told you I love to make people happy. Well, they have been very happy and they shared their happiness – it was a pure joy for me! I am so thankful to the Rebellion team for allowing me to go so far with the race cars, the parade cars and everything. It has been an amazing opportunity for me to share my art.

Rebellion race 2Rebellion race

A career in Neon Colours


Tomyboy has always been an artist, but not always a visual artist. He was originally an R&B producer. Keen on making a difference through distinctive merchandising, he developed a visual concept combining street art aesthetics with fluorescent colours from the sixties. RocketByz (pronounced as “Rocket boys”) was born. In May 2012, during the Billboard Music Awards, the singer Chris Brown and his group went up on stage with glow-in-the-dark bikes designed by RocketByz. “I had no idea about it” says Tomyboy. “I was in Europe, fast asleep! When I woke up, I had tons of e-mails. This is really how RocketByz took off!” With his striking fun style, Tomyboy transforms all sorts of consumer objects. Cars (Ferrari, Lamborghini, Mercedes, Minis, Rolls Royce…), Harley Davidsons, clothes, bags, sneakers, watches… Various brands have been interested in working with him and have been ordering limited series, such as Blaken, who specialises in personalising Rolex watches; or SevenFriday, whose 50 RocketByz watches sold out in two hours (and were subsequently copied in China!). Meanwhile, his creations – classified by some as “Rockstar Art” – have attracted the attention of collectors. Tomyboy has also been exhibiting: in 2016, “Glow in the Dark” presented his fluorescent artworks in Abu Dhabi, then in Hamburg. The artist is full of inspiration and energy. The large variety of RocketByz projects is a perfect illustration of him. Watch winders for the Infinite Watch Winder brand. A porcelain bottle for the champagne Sensorium. An outdoors installation for a football stadium in the Polish town of Gliwice. The interior and exterior decoration of a dozen cars for Carlex Design, experts in high-end personalised cars, planes and boats. His art will also be displayed on the front facade screens of the Flannels store on Oxford street in London. Not to be outdone, Tomyboy has been preparing the launch of his own products. A glow-in-the-dark alcohol, which will be only available in a few selected bars. Boxer shorts made in the United Kingdom, so exclusive that they will be numbered. Tomyboy’s motto has never changed, since the beginning: take a consumer product and turn it into a full-blown work of art. Unique and personal.