The end of summer heralds a flurry of art fairs in Hong Kong, including one brand new venture, even as international visitors remain largely absent because of Covid-19 restrictions. The first of the five fairs to take place in coming weeks is the four-day Affordable Art Fair (AAF), which kicks off at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre in Wan Chai on August 26. The global franchise hasn’t held a physical fair in Hong Kong since May 2019 because the pandemic put paid to the 2020 edition, which would have been its eighth. “Before, around 80 per cent of participating galleries were overseas. It is flipped the other way this year,” says Regina Zhang Minzi, the fair director. Just eight out of the 40 galleries in the show are coming from overseas, and their booths are being set up remotely, with AAF staff and local contractors taking care of logistics and sales. The lack of tourists is not an issue for AAF, Zhang adds. “Our fair has always been a local fair. Around 95 per cent of visitors to our previous fairs were locals, and it is the same for the other 13 AAFs held each year around the world,” she says. As far as the timing is concerned, Zhang says AAF is taking advantage of an extension to the government’s pandemic subsidies scheme which covers the rent for major events held at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre and AsiaWorld-Expo at the airport in Lantau. Hong Kong art galleries that left pricey Central return as rents drop A number of new galleries have started up in the past 18 months, she adds, which shows that Hong Kong residents are becoming more interested in art. The next fair on the list is “Unscheduled”, which, in a way, is exactly that. In 2020, the industry body representing Hong Kong gallery owners came up with the first “Unscheduled” fair, held at Tai Kwun Centre for Heritage and Arts in Central, in response to the cancellation of Art Basel Hong Kong and Art Central; both fairs returned in 2021, and with more booths available to local dealers than ever. Willem Molesworth, a spokesman for the Hong Kong Art Gallery Association (HKAGA), says “Unscheduled” was supposed to be a one-off, but the response from collectors has been so positive that they have decided to do it again. “It is very different to Art Basel and people appreciated the more intimate scale, and how challenging and alternative it was,” he says. He promises a fair that speaks to what is happening to the art scene in Hong Kong, as massive political changes are under way and new limits on expression are imposed by the National Security Law . “This is a very challenging point in time because of the pandemic and what is happening here politically. Doing something like this is testament to how strong and creative the local art scene is. “Internationally, be it in the US or across the border [in] mainland [China], people don’t see Hong Kong as a creative place, just a place for financial transactions. That is why people liked ‘Unscheduled’ last year. It is evidence that what is happening here is remarkable,” says Molesworth, who quit as a director of de Sarthe Gallery recently to plan the opening of his own gallery. The rise of cryptocurrency in particular is revolutionising the way we create, buy and sell art Gillian Howard, co-director of the Digital Art Fair Asia Edition 2021 Fifteen HKAGA members are taking part in the show, which opens on September 2 in the split-level 20,000 sq ft retail space on Queen’s Road Central formerly occupied by Topshop. The same venue will host the inaugural Digital Art Fair from September 30. This event, backed by Hong Kong-based cryptocurrency exchange Genesis Block, will be the first physical art fair in Asia to feature art based on non-fungible tokens, digital certificates of authenticity built on the same technology used in bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. While the headlines about NFTs are dominated by feverish speculation or concerns about the amount of electricity consumed by blockchain processes, they are bringing fundamental changes to the art world that are unlikely to be reversible, says Gillian Howard, co-director of the fair. ( The Post has launched its own NFT projects, including an upcoming NFT art charity auction .) “Traditional fine art has long ruled the art world, but we’re also witnessing a new generation of artists [who are beginning] to adapt to our modern world. The rise of cryptocurrency in particular is revolutionising the way we create, buy and sell art,” she says. “The Digital Art Fair Asia Edition 2021 was created to cater to this new movement in which artists are embracing the use of digital technology to produce and showcase their work through innovative means.” Two more events in October will round off the season’s art fairs. Fine Art Asia, known for its focus on antiques, furniture and Chinese ink art, returns to the Convention and Exhibition Centre on October 7 as the autumn auctions begin. And on October 8, a showcase for more than 70 emerging artists, called Art Next Expo, will open its doors at Lanson Place Causeway Bay. For dates and ticketing details of each art fair, see their websites.