Despite his busy schedule, Art HK director Magnus Renfrew takes the time to meet us at Wagyu Lounge on Wyndham Street in Central for a leisurely chat. He's impeccably dressed in a bespoke suit he had made in Shanghai, yet he gives off an approachable and relaxed air. Renfrew is arguably the most important international art world figure in Hong Kong. Under his guidance, Art HK - which runs from May 26-29 this year - has expanded greatly since the event was first held in 2008. The growth has been so tremendous that MCH Group, which organises the top fairs Art Basle and Art Basle Miami Beach, recently bought a majority stake in Asian Art Fairs, owners of Art HK. 'The purchase of a majority stake in Asian Art Fairs Ltd by MCH Group is a resounding endorsement of our activities and the firm foundations that we've laid to date for building a major international art fair for Asia,' says Renfrew. Next year's fair will take place February 2-5 to best fit with the schedule of the other fairs in the MCH stable. Art HK will retain its name and continue with Renfrew at the helm. This is a huge coup for a fair that didn't begin with such lofty aspirations. '[The owners] initially had an idea for the fair that was more of a mid-range fair,' Renfrew says. 'I saw that there was huge potential for a major international art fair in Hong Kong, perhaps slightly more ambitious than their initial thoughts. Together, we came up with this idea to really go for the high end.' But first, they had to bring in galleries. Without them, there would be no exhibitors, and no fair. '[Art HK was] good enough to give me a travel budget,' he says. 'It was a tough six months. I was on 40 flights in six months. I was everywhere: New York, London, Paris, Tokyo, Melbourne, Sydney, Seoul, Singapore, Taipei, Mumbai, Delhi. You name it, I've been there to try to persuade galleries to come. We managed to assemble a respectable number of galleries in year one. 'We had 101 galleries from 19 different countries,' he continues. 'We had great visitor attendance of 19,000 in the first year. Sales seemed to go well, galleries seemed to feel that they were making interesting contacts, and there was a real energy about it. That was right at the height of the market in 2008. In terms of timing that worked well for us. Each year it has kind of progressed. We've improved the quality of the galleries and increased the geographical diversity of the fair quite dramatically over the three years.' This year, 260 galleries from 38 countries will have booths at the Convention and Exhibition Centre. For the first time, the fair will occupy two floors, with important dealers such as Marian Goodman Gallery coming. Last year, one of the biggest surprises was the number of families with young children visiting the fair. It is clear Hongkongers are hungry to see world-class contemporary art, and Art HK helps fill the void as we await the opening of the West Kowloon Cultural District. The presence of Art HK may be a factor in the number of major international galleries opening up in Hong Kong. Since 2008, Ben Brown Fine Arts, Gagosian Gallery, de Sarthe Fine Art and Edouard Malingue Gallery have opened in Central, showing international stars such as Candida Hofer, Damien Hirst, David LaChapelle and Zhang Huan. So how did Renfrew found himself in Hong Kong leading this ambitious and influential project? The short answer: a love of art. Renfrew was born in Winchester, England, to academics. His father, Colin, is an archaeologist ('I was quite impressed when Indiana Jones came out. I thought it was really cool that my father was an archaeologist'), and his mother, Jane, is a paleoethnobotanist. 'We were brought up in a very cultural family, always going around to museums and things,' says Renfrew. 'My parents have always been fascinated by art. There has always been art in the house in some form or another. My father's godfather was a major collector of 20th-century art; he had a number of works by Rothko and by pretty significant international artists like Pollock.' His family life continued to shape his experience with art. 'I was really lucky because when my father was master of Jesus College in Cambridge for 10 years there was a vibrant art society and many artists came to speak. They would stay with us so I had the opportunity to meet and get to know people like Antony Gormley, Eduardo Paolozzi, Richard Long and some really major people from post-war and contemporary British art.' At 19, a three-month work experience position at Waddington Galleries in London during his gap year cemented his passion to pursue a career in the art world. 'Being around art, and the fantastic works by Picasso and by some of the great post-war artists as well, I really got a flavour for what it would be like to work in the art world,' he says. Renfrew read art history at St Andrews University in Scotland, and did a studentship at the Guggenheim in Venice one summer. After he graduated, he joined auction house Bonhams as a general picture valuer. 'It was an amazing learning experience just getting to handle literally thousands of artworks each year and having to come up with an opinion of them quickly,' he says. He became a specialist in 20th-century British art before starting Bonhams' contemporary Asian art department. 'The first sale took place in June 2006, but we'd been working on it for about 18 months beforehand. We were just slightly ahead of the curve because we started working on it before Sotheby's announced they would be having major sales of contemporary Asian art in New York, for example ... we realised we were onto something. 'I was on the first flight out to China after that. In the lead-up to the auction I was lucky to meet up with [gallery owner and columnist] Pearl Lam. We got on well immediately, and she offered me a job running her gallery in Shanghai.' Just as his one-year contract with Lam's Contrasts Gallery was up, friends got in touch regarding a job in Hong Kong - and so Art HK was born. 'Art HK has developed an extensive pan-Asian audience over the last three years,' says Renfrew. 'The partnership with Art Basle will take the fair to the next level. As the fair continues to grow, so does our art scene.'