If a knock-off Andy Warhol painting from Kmart was hung next to Jackson Pollock's Blue Poles in the National Gallery of Australia, there would be outrage. So how should we feel about knock-off furniture next to Australian-designed originals?
Last week Fairfax Media reported the National Gallery of Australia had spent almost $30,000 on armchairs for its members lounge, at the same time as the institution was facing budget cuts and staff losses. Six of the chairs came in at $3702 a chair - but that's not the price tag that has angered members of the Australian furniture design community.
The gallery also spent $6246 on 10 chairs from Milan Direct, referred to by the gallery as "red swan chairs".
The gallery defended the spending by saying it was supporting Australian designers, but that's not the whole story. While the green chairs with the four-figure price tag have been confirmed as original Grant Featherston contour armchairs, they sit alongside replicas of chairs originally designed by Danish designer Arne Jacobsen.
The National Gallery of Australia wouldn't comment on the origins of the chairs, but the supplier of the Grant Featherston chairs has confirmed they were legitimately produced, with royalties going to Featherston's estate.
"Curious Grace is a proud supporter of 100 per cent original-design furniture and home interior products. Since inception we have had a strict policy of providing the Australian market with original-design products in an effort to encourage and develop talented designers from around the world," Curious Grace director Wayne Curnuck said.
"These furniture pieces are 100 per cent Australian made under an exclusive design licence and royalties are paid to the Featherston estate."
Milan Direct, which is now owned by Temple and Webster, is part of the replica or reproduction market, meaning original designers don't get a cut of sales from the products. The gallery paid $624 for each swan chair. Canberra-based business Designcraft is licensed to sell the originals - the price tag is $5000 plus.
Authentic Design Alliance director Anne-Maree Sargeant is angered the gallery would buy replicas instead of originals.
"It's the role of an institution to show original and authentic work because that's the reason that they exist. It's unfortunate in this instance that it seems budget cuts have led to a short sighted decision," Ms Sargeant said.
"I think that it's entirely appropriate that the genuine Grant Featherston chairs were selected given his work and Mary's [Featherston, Grant Featherson's wife and collaborator] work forms part of the collection."
Ms Sargeant said it was "unfortunate" the replicas had been bought, but it wasn't a unique case.
It's understood the National Gallery of Australia isn't the only cultural institution in Australia to have replica furniture in its public areas.
Intellectual property rights that apply to art and music don't apply to furniture design, meaning knock-offs can legally be made. The Authentic Design Alliance is calling for the sale of replica furniture to be criminalised as well as an extension of design protections.
"Our Australian furnishing industry is booming, it's never had more recognition globally, there's never been as many Australian businesses investing in developing Australian designed products," Ms Sargeant said, calling for Australian institutions to support the work of contemporary Australian designers.
Curious Grace didn't comment on the replica chairs that sit alongside the originals they manufactured, but said the gallery should always be supporting Australian designers.
"The NGA in all its endeavours should be supporting Australian design and the talent of designers. Curious Grace is proud to have been part of the NGA's clear intention to provide this iconic designer a rightful place in the heart of art and culture worldwide," Mr Curnuck said.
Spending at Australia's galleries and museums is set to face scrutiny with a parliamentary inquiry into the national institutions currently taking submissions.