The New Criterion is a New York-based monthly literary magazine and journal of artistic and cultural criticism, edited by Roger Kimball (editor and publisher) and James Panero (executive editor). It has sections for criticism of poetry, theater, art, music, the media, and books. It was founded in 1982 by Hilton Kramer, former art critic for The New York Times, and Samuel Lipman, a pianist and music critic. The name is a reference to The Criterion, a British literary magazine edited by T. S. Eliot from 1922 to 1939.
The magazine is described as influential, and describes itself as a "monthly review of the arts and intellectual life [...] in the forefront both of championing what is best and most humanely vital in our cultural inheritance and in exposing what is mendacious, corrosive, and spurious." It evinces an artistic classicism and political conservatism that are rare among other publications of its type.
It regularly publishes "special pamphlets," or compilations of published material organized into themes. Some past examples have been Corrupt Humanitarianism; Religion, Manners, and Morals in the U.S. and Great Britain; and Reflections on Anti-Americanism.
The New Criterion has been running The New Criterion Poetry Prize, a poetry contest with a cash prize, since 1999. In 2004, The New Criterion contributors began publishing a blog, known as Dispatch (previously known as ArmaVirumque).
The New Criterion was founded in 1982 by The New York Times art critic Hilton Kramer. He cited his reasons for leaving the paper to start The New Criterion as "the disgusting and deleterious doctrines with which the most popular of our Reviews disgraces its pages," as well as "the dishonesties and hypocrisies and disfiguring ideologies that nowadays afflict the criticism of the arts, [which] are deeply rooted in both our commercial and our academic culture [...]"
"It is therefore all the more urgent," he went on to say, "that a dissenting critical voice be heard, and it is for the purpose of providing such a voice that The New Criterion has been created."
Kramer's decision to leave The New York Times, where he had been the newspaper's chief art critic, and to start a magazine devoted to ideas and the arts "surprised a lot of people and was a statement in itself," according to Erich Eichmann.
Noted contributors to the journal include Mark Steyn, as well as articles by Roger Scruton, David Pryce-Jones, Theodore Dalrymple, Jay Nordlinger, and others.
In its first issue, dated September 1982, the magazine set out "to speak plainly and vigorously about the problems that beset the life of the artists and the life of the mind in our society" while resisting "a more general cultural drift" that had in many cases, "condemned true seriousness to a fugitive existence."
The New Criterion has been reported as highly influential in the way that conservatives think about culture.
Writer Jeet Heer has argued that the journal is mistaken in attempting to draw such a strong distinction between high culture and popular culture, and, that the unreasonable nature of this proposition is partly demonstrated by the fact that a number of New Criterion contributors write enthusiastically about aspects of popular culture in other publications.
According to the conservative publication The New York Sun, for a quarter of a century The New Criterion "has helped its readers distinguish achievement from failure in painting, music, dance, literature, theater, and other arts. The magazine, whose circulation is 6,500, has taken a leading role in the culture wars, publishing articles whose titles are an intellectual call to arms."
Former associate editor of The New Criterion Christopher Carduff said to The New York Sun: "I think that what initially made it a sensation — and, in certain quarters, a scandal, was its courage to make judgments about contemporary art, to separate the sheep from the goats. Or, more to the point, to separate the sheep from the pigs in sheep's clothing."