It's still not uncommon to hear Japanese art bureaucrats and administrators speaking dreamily about Tokyo one day becoming the regional art hub — the "show window," as one local museum director put it to me last year, through which the art of Asia can be presented to the rest of the world.

You have to wonder if they've visited Hong Kong recently. It's been a few years now since the Chinese Special Administrative Region became the third-largest art auction market in the world — thanks largely to Christie's and Sotheby's having set up their regional operations there. But even more significant than those two votes of confidence was the announcement in 2011 that MCH Swiss Exhibition (Basel) Ltd. — better known as the organizer of the two most prominent commercial art fairs in the world, Art Basel and Art Basel Miami Beach — had purchased Art HK, a precocious independent fair that was then only 3 years old.

Art Basel in Hong Kong, as the fair was re-branded, was first held last year, and the Swiss experience and global connections served as a pair of booster jets. When Art HK started out, in 2008, it had 100 galleries and nearly 20,000 visitors; in 2013 the new fair brought in 245 galleries and 60,000 visitors.