The magazine 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.
Since 1999, The New Criterion has been running the New Criterion Poetry Prize, a poetry contest with a cash prize. 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.
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".
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."
Since the magazine's founding, many writers, poets, academics, commentators, and politicians - mostly drawn from the conservative end of the political spectrum - have written for it. Contributors include:
Since its inauguration in 2013, The New Criterion’s reader-funded Hilton Kramer Fellowship has been awarded to promising writers with an interest in developing careers as critics.
Edmund Burke Annual Gala
First awarded in 2012, The New Criterion’s Edmund Burke Award for Service to Culture and Society is given annually to individuals “who have made conspicuous contributions to the defense of civilization.”
The publication hosts an annual gala honoring recipients of the award. Edmund Burke Award recipients include:
The Betrayal of Liberalism: How the Disciples of Freedom and Equality Helped Foster the Illiberal Politics of Coercion and Control edited by Hilton Kramer and Roger Kimball; Ivan R. Dee, 256 pages (1999). ISBN1-56663-257-9, ISBN978-1-56663-257-7