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At precisely 8:30 p.m. on Thursday evening, the 118-story ICC tower, which is visible from just about everywhere in Hong Kong, began flashing to a pulselike rhythm. It was as though some strange creature had landed in the city set on pumping it with energy. And, in many ways, it had.

Art Basel in Hong Kong — the second spinoff of the world’s most prestigious art fair, Art Basel (the first being Miami Beach, which started in 2002), had just opened to the public a few hours earlier, trailing a retinue of some 120 galleries from the Asia-Pacific region, 120 more from Europe and the Americas, hundreds of cashed-up collectors, hundreds more art journalists and dozens of museum curators from the world over.

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