A footless Roman warrior lies broken on the ground, sprinkled with berries and a split mango; a concrete bust of a woman is draped in satsumas. The location is the Maison Margiela atelier at 163 rue Saint-Maur, where a group of four Greco-inspired concrete and marble sculptures by the American artist Tony Matelli have been installed for the occasion of John Galliano’s debut Artisanal men’s show for the house.

The elegant wit of Matelli’s pieces works in tandem with Galliano’s theatrical grandeur. Both artist and designer use deconstruction, juxtaposition and trompe l’oeil to provocative effect. ‘I’ve been aware of Galliano as a cultural figure for a long time, but truthfully hadn’t known a lot about his work,’ Matelli says. ‘As far as his own work mirroring mine, or mine mirroring his, to me it is almost irrelevant.’ The collision of their worlds reveals similarities and connections that might otherwise be missed. Both Galliano and Matelli transgress the natural state of materials. They both have a sense of passion and poignancy.

There’s a fantastic scrappy finesse to Galliano’s clothes. The new menswear bespoke line explores how the highest form of dressmaking might look for the modern man. Authentic textiles from classic tailoring and haute couture suggested an alternative masculinity. Satin-back crêpe and tweed were bias-cut. More outré organza, chiffon and silk served camp verve. And with their fruits balanced on heads and hips, Matelli’s vanitas sculptures have a jester-like quality about them too, though they underscore a deeper, poetic truth about the impermanence of material objects. Repurposed concrete and marble have been scoured, sandblasted and defaced. The fruits are all cast in bronze and then painted as if freshly picked.

‘I know people like to talk about these works as playful, but to me they’re intended as dark objects,’ Matelli affirms. ‘They’re serious. Even if there’s a casualness about the way the fruits are laid on the marble antiquities, I only see the pathos and poetic-ness in them.’ These sculptures are in a sense ruined. ‘They have come to the end of their material life.’ Everything is ever-changing. §