Given continuing pandemic restrictions, Art Central – the long-running satellite fair accompanying Art Basel Hong Kong that shows contemporary art and progressive works – has had to adapt and attune its focus to local artists and galleries this year. “[We knew] that we would need to develop a fair and an angle that would make sense as a platform for art of our time, which is naturally going to be a bit more local in nature,” says Corey Barr, fair director of Art Central. Citing the number of local professional and amateur artists producing such high-quality work, the Art Central team came up with “Made in Hong Kong”, an exhibition that showcases 65 works by 40 local artists, chosen from more than 650 applications. Qu Chang, curatorial director of Art Central, says her goal with the exhibition was to highlight the diversity of artistic practice in Hong Kong. The open call gave artists and visual practitioners who weren’t represented by commercial galleries a chance to shine, she adds. One such artist is Bowie Lee, who didn’t even have an established website when she first submitted her artwork. Her video installation The Grid and The Skin (2020-2021) features her walking through Sham Shui Po and navigating a tong lau (tenement building) with a woven map of Hong Kong over her back. The map is later burned in the video, but because it’s played in reverse, the map is seen as forming itself. “It’s this very ghostly process of thinking about a place, one’s connection to a place and various ways of exploring a place,” says Qu, explaining that the work and its woven map alludes to memory and personal history. Sales are strong on Art Basel Hong Kong’s opening day, galleries report Qu also curated Art Central’s programme dedicated to large-scale installations. The six pieces are united by the level of imagination seen in the artworks, which reconsider and subvert reality. Presented by JPS Art Gallery, Afa Annfa’s The Magical Hoop (2022) depicts a life-size Hong Kong laundromat that transforms into a British living room through a magical porthole, commenting on the hope, sense of longing and fatigue that can be elicited by emigration. Meanwhile, Louis To Wun’s San Syu Wat Leot Are Not Here (2022), presented by CWC Art Gallery, intertwines cubism with traditional Chinese mythology. The set of four intricate bamboo Chinese opera figures represent the guardians of the door in Chinese mythology, but when viewed from the side, the four towering beings merge into one, forming a dragon. At first-time exhibitor Mwimbi Fine Art, Hong Kong-based artist Lee du Ploy shows numerous portraits of people with mental illnesses. Hailing from South Africa, the psychologist and writer says painting was an avenue through which he could express the memories he had of his patients. As he describes it, his works are related to “changing the perception of the condition”, which could be understood as through the patients’ view of themselves or of others’ views on patients. By late afternoon on Thursday, the artist had sold four works. There is plenty of other boundary-pushing contemporary art. Create Drive is showing three artists who have adopted an experimental way of using Chinese ink, while Anthony James’ 50” Icosahedron, (Solar Black) (2019) at Opera Gallery is set to become an Instagram favourite with its reflective panels and LED lights. Also at Opera Gallery is Yayoi Kusama’s I Carry on Living with the Pumpkins (2014), showcasing her well-known pumpkin motif. Art Central, like Art Basel Hong Kong, may not be what it was pre-pandemic, but it has certainly adapted to the times. Despite all the unexpected changes and travel restrictions, Barr continues to be optimistic about Hong Kong’s art scene. “Somehow, the closed border has allowed arts to flourish, especially local arts, and representatives for local artists have done really well,” he says. “That’s really exciting, and that wouldn’t have happened without this situation with the travel. “So that’s something to be really thankful for.” Art Central and Art Basel Hong Kong are held at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre, 1 Harbour Road, Wan Chai. Art Central, May 26, 2pm-8pm, May 27, 11am-7pm, May 28, 11am-7pm, May 29, 11am-6pm.