Originally Posted by Renault78law
How does the uninitiated go about this?
Mostly by just looking at stuff to get your feet wet, and buying something you like. As with clothing, you can develop your tastes over time by looking around, reading up on what interests you, and having conversations with gallery owners, other enthusiasts, etc. (Obviously, some gallery owners are simply salespeople - as in any field, you'll develop over time some sense of who is just trying to sell you something and who is honestly sharing their expertise and enthusiasm.)
Bergamot Station, at 26th & Michigan in Santa Monica has a collection of galleries showing a variety of styles of art. (I think you're in L.A., no?) It's an excellent place to just get your feet wet and start to get a sense of what you like. There is also a small complex of galleries (ACME, Mark Fox, Works on Paper, Karen Ludgrove, one or two others) on Wilshire, just west of Fairfax, more or less across the street from Sizzler, on the south side of the street immediately west of the parking lot. The folks in ACME are particularly knowledgeable, helpful, and not hard-sell types. (They're also friends of mine through my wife, so discount my opinion to the extent you feel necessary.) There's a group of emerging galleries in Chinatown as well, although off the top of my head I can't give you any names. Obviously, there are pockets of small gallery all over the city, these are just a few I know.