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Metropolitan Museum of Art director Philippe de Montebello and new Met director-appointee Thomas P. Campbell at the Met, Sept. 10, 2008
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by Walter Robinson and Ben Davis

Fly high, fall hard. Without a doubt, the big art-world story for 2008 was the euphoric expansion of the art market -- and its abrupt stop in October, along with the rest of the world economy.  The record-setting run, typically put at five years long or more, brought everyone from hedge-fund billionaires to Russian and Middle Eastern oligarchs into the auction rooms, pushing prices to delirious heights. For some reason, art still rules as a marker of status and sensibility.