1. Go to benefit auctions.
Benefit auctions give you an opportunity to support a space, which is an easy way of supporting a lot of artists at once. Benefits, where artists have typically donated their work, tend to show "art you wouldn't see, because they're not so heavily curated."
2. Think potential.
You can find a piece at a benefit by a relatively unknown artist, pick it up for practically nothing, and end up very lucky. "Five years from now, that person could have a hot career" says Goldrich.
3. Bid on less "flashy" work.
To avoid a bidding war, don't just avoid the big name artists; "bid on a less flashy piece." As long as you love the piece and would want to have it in your home, you can't go wrong.
4. Meet the artists.
At benefits, you often get a chance to meet the artists whose work is being sold. If you develop a relationship with a young artist whose work you'd like to follow, they are likely to let you know where they're showing and what they're making -- or you can even commission a piece.
5. Call yourself a collector.
To an artist whose piece you might want to buy, you are a collector. To an organization who benefits from your purchase, you are a collector. "The difference between a collector and someone who buys art is a kind of pathology," says Goldrich. "There's a psychological need that drives [a collector]." You don't have to have five Monets in your basement to be considered a collector; there are no rules. Once you define yourself as a collector, your own instincts will help you.
Amy Goldrich is a New York attorney who specializes in Art, Commercial, and Entertainment Law. On the side, she has collected art for ten years.