I was at a fantastic show opening in San Francisco last week, "Lil SWIM" at the Luggage Store Gallery, curated by Yarrow Slaps and Auguste Somers. The show featured work from 68 artists including well-established artists like Os Gemeos (sold immediately), Retna, Swoon (pictured is a 2015 work called "Rosemary") and Lydia Fong (Barry McGee) but also many emerging artists. In particular, I loved works by Kezia Harrell (pictured), Jenny Sharaf, Rafael Arana, Pat Falco, Justin Hager and Muzae Sesay. It's hard to describe the energy at a show like this. The Luggage Store has a rich heritage of supporting young artists in the San Francisco area, and at shows like this the community comes out to support. I strongly recommend getting on their mailing list at http://www.luggagestoregallery.org/
When I approach an event like this as a buyer, I typically do the following
1) Walk the show once or twice and look at every piece on my own before looking at price books or talking to anyone. Find the two or three pieces that you naturally gravitate to. Do any of these really grab you? (You'll know if they do! You'll keep thinking about them)
2) Grab a few minutes with one of the gallery owners or staff or the show curators if they're not with the gallery. Ask them to give you their thoughts on the show. If it's a single artist, ask them which are their favorite pieces and why and have them tell you about the artist. If it's multiple artist, ask them to point out who they think the stand-outs are and why. Then ask them about the ones you gravitated to, to get their thoughts.
3) Now look at the price guide (the booklet laying around somewhere with the information on the works). Snap photos of the ones you like for reference later.
4) Go home and do your homework. This is always a risk at a hot opening, since someone could buy the piece in the meantime. But unless you're very comfortable with the piece and ready to buy, it's usually worth waiting. Let the gallery owners know which pieces you're interested in and tell them you want some time to think about them. They'll give you a sense of other interest (of course they're ultimately in the business of selling, so will probably inflate the amount of other interest, but you can usually get a feel for how serious they are). Now go do your research on the artists you like and the particular works. This also allows you to "cool off" after the excitement of the show.
Then, if you're still interested in buying any of the works, you can move on to the negotiation...