The west wall has a spare lineup of all five LACMA paintings that show the American West, hung to create a continuous horizon line. The east wall is entirely covered, floor to ceiling and corner to corner, by a salon-style installation of 25 of its East Coast views, installed chronologically. (LACMA owns a few more of these, but they are away in a touring show.)
The face-off is stark between Eastern profusion and Western scarcity, the East Coast as unfolding history and the West as an elusive border.
Partly the numbers reflect 19th century population-densities. Partly they show where working artists were clustered. And partly they represent patterns of private and public art collecting — of where concepts of “museum quality” have put historic emphasis in acquiring art.
Those notions of population, labor and value are of course fluid and contested rather than eternal and fixed.