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The New Criterion

Quite simply, the best cultural review in the world
- John O’Sullivan



In case you missed it

by Benjamin Riley

Posted: Sep 04, 2015 12:17 PM

David Garrick as Hamlet (October, 1769), from Dramatic Characters, or Different Portraits of the English Stage (1773) via


Recent links of note:

Who Wants to Ring the Closing Bell on Stock Market’s Bad Days?
Mike Vilensky, The Wall Street Journal
We all know the picture: a smiling fellow, often in an ill-fitting suit, surrounded by his loyal employees, marking a successful IPO or anniversary. I speak, of course, of the ringing of the stock market’s closing bell. But what to do on those recently all-too-frequent days when the market has taken a serious plunge? Keep smiling and hope to ring the opening bell next time, when the day’s optimism hasn’t yet diminished.

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Obsessed with the picture-perfect

by Carina Hahn

Posted: Sep 04, 2015 10:18 AM

Canaletto, Capriccio Romano (Colosseum), 1742-1747

Last summer, I visited the Eternal City, Rome, to study Latin with the University of Dallas. In a heartbeat, I would drop everything to stroll once more through the mossy Etruscan necropolis at Cerveteri, climb Mount Vesuvius after reading the letters of Pliny the Younger, and picnic at Tusculum, the site of Cicero’s suburban villa. Nevertheless, I would avoid the Colosseum at all costs. The ancient site teems with sweaty tourists clad in visors and khaki shorts, all with cameras or phones in hand, taking group “selfies” in front of the limestone pillars. Monstrous groups of people pose with “selfie sticks”—one-to-two foot poles that can be attached to an iPhone in order to take a selfie from a farther distance—extending from their hands. We can be thankful that these contraptions have since been banned not only from the Colosseum, but also from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Getty Center, the Frick Museum, and other sane cultural institutions. For a further rumination on the effects of camera phones on museum culture, see Eric Gibson’s piece from December 2013.

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Martha Martha Martha

by James Panero

Posted: Sep 03, 2015 03:03 PM

"Embattled Garden," here performed by Lorenzo Pagano, Mariya Dashkina Maddux, and Lloyd Mayor of Martha Graham Dance Company; photo Christopher Duggan


How often should we expect the Martha Graham Dance Company to perform dances by Martha Graham? I might suggest something like 75 percent of the time. Founded by Martha Graham in 1926, here is the oldest dance company in America. Tasked with preserving and transmitting the repertoire of 181 works that Graham left behind at her death in 1991 at age 96, the company now offers the only means, for the most part, of seeing the dances of our most influential American on the modern stage. Yet over the finale weekend at Jacob’s Pillow Dance in Becket, Massachusetts, the number of Grahams by Graham stood at just 25 percent. Only one in four dances on the program was a Graham original, while the remaining work consisted of new commissions that ranged from the Grahamesque to the Grahamdiloquent.

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"Saving Place" at the Museum of the City of NY

by Benjamin Riley

Posted: Sep 02, 2015 09:59 AM

Aaron Rose, The Demolition of Pennsylvania Station, 1964-65, Museum of the City of New York (Gift of Aaron Rose)

The character of a city is the result of its people and its places. I’m sure there are other things I’m leaving out (the weather comes to mind) but when one thinks of the defining characteristics of a city, it is the personality of its denizens and its streets that make an impression. Paris is grands boulevards and surly citoyens; New York is proud skyscrapers and gruff residents; London, stately townhouses and courteous habitués. Architecture and attitude leave an indelible impression on the mind, conditioning the way in which one frames a city. But what if a city’s architecture were in a state of continuous flux? What if there were nothing to stop treasured buildings from coming down? This is the question asked by "Saving Place," a new exhibition marking the fiftieth anniversary of the New York City Landmarks Law, on through January 3, 2016 at the Museum of the City of New York.

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Introducing The March in Memory: From Selma to Montgomery, by Peter Pettus

by Benjamin Riley

Posted: Aug 31, 2015 12:50 PM



Criterion Books, an imprint of The New Criterion, is excited to introduce to you Peter Pettus’s fascinating The March In Memory: From Selma to Montgomery. The photographs collected in this volume were taken during the 1965 Civil Rights March from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama. Never before published, this is the work of an artist photographer who wanted to tell the story directly and simply, not as a photojournalist, but as a participant in this national and political demonstration. The camera looks deep into the faces of those who were there—black, white, old, young, Northern, and Southern—at the time when America approached one of its greatest times of crisis.

The pictures unfold here as a narrative. As the March moves along, we see participants and bystanders depicted in dramatic shades of black and white. Passing through the towns, people gather to wave, not quite believing what they are seeing. The expressions on these faces reflect a vast range of emotions: hope, fear, doubt, and joy. We see, as the March approaches Montgomery, the hundreds who have spontaneously joined up. The final photographs of the huge crowd streaming into the Capitol express the power of those words: “I Have a Dream.”

Peter's book is now available on Amazon.

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In case you missed it

by Benjamin Riley

Posted: Aug 28, 2015 11:21 AM

O the Roast Beef of Old England (The Gate of Calais), William Hogarth, 1748, Tate Britain, London


Recent links of note:

Britain Can Do Better
Max Boot, Commentary
Add another voice to the chorus singing of Jeremy Corbyn’s increasingly likely election as leader of Britain’s Labour Party. While some, like Jay Nordlinger, see Corbyn’s rise as a cause for sadness, lamenting the demise of a once-great party, Max Boot sees a positive in Corbyn’s election: it could be the death-knell of the feeble party. With a man who “makes Bernie Sanders look like a John Bircher” set to lead Labour, Boot says that “odds are it will survive Corbyn, too. But it shouldn’t. Britain can do better.”

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Fairness for the fair sex

by James Bowman

Posted: Aug 27, 2015 04:27 PM

Times Square, October 1919

In a typically lumbering and awkward attempt at irony, Catherine Rampell of The Washington Post writes that “A new terror imperils New York, threatening to destroy all that it—nay, America—holds dear.” You could tell by the old-fashioned language in “nay” and the “holds dear” that she was being ironic. That’s good, because things that are non-ironically but putatively destructive of all we hold dear are rather a drug on the journalistic market these days, and one wouldn’t want to be blundering into yet another one of them by reading any further. But the relatively trivial matter which she wishes to trivialize further by her ridicule is the appearance in Times Square of bare breasted but usually body-painted women calling themselves desnudas who pose with tourists for tips. Some people don’t like this and are urging, not without result, the impeccably liberal powers that be in New York to do something about it.

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Much too up and at life

by Jane Balkoski

Posted: Aug 26, 2015 02:20 PM

John Singer Sargent, Group with Parasols (Siesta), c. 1904–5, Oil on Canvas, © The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

The Metropolitan Museum's exhibit “Sargent: Portraits of Artists and Friends" does not begin with a painting of an heiress or a picture of the artist, that deep crease between his grey eyebrows. It begins with a tall vertical window, a little larger than a full-body portrait. This window opens onto the show, forcing viewers to confront two unfortunate truths: a successful portrait painter cannot simply paint "from life." He must build a new world for his sitter, a world with nice lighting, good posture, and a striking composition. He also must let the sitter eclipse him; he must cultivate a fascination for his subject, but not himself.

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New England in Austria

by Jay Nordlinger

Posted: Aug 25, 2015 02:25 PM

Andris Nelsons/Photo: Marco Borggreve

Here at the Salzburg Festival, the Vienna Philharmonic is king—the resident orchestra. But sometimes interlopers get in, and sometimes those interlopers are American. In 2008, the Cleveland Orchestra came (albeit under an Austrian music director, Franz Welser-Möst). This year, the Boston Symphony has come.

Its conductor is Andris Nelsons, the young Latvian, who has been with the BSO since last fall, and with whom the orchestra is expecting a long relationship. He is a protégé of Mariss Jansons, his great countryman, who has been the music director in Pittsburgh, Amsterdam, and other places.

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The New Criterion

About ArmaVirumque


( AHR-mah wih-ROOM-kweh)


In the Aeneid, the Roman poet Virgil sang of "arms and a man" (Arma virumque cano). Month in and month out, The New Criterion expounds with great clarity and wit on the art, culture, and political controversies of our times. With postings of reviews, essays, links, recs, and news, Armavirumque seeks to continue this mission in accordance with the timetable of the digital age.


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September 29, 2015

Friends and Young Friends Event: Book Launch Party with Peter Pettus

October 02, 2015

Friends and Young Friends Event: "The Corruption of our Political Institutions," a symposium

More events >