Story: Arts reviewing

Critics and reviewers give public opinions on artistic and literary works. The best critics provide thoughtful analysis, capable of provoking discussion about a work – even about an entire art form.

Story by Peter Clayworth
Main image: Charles Baeyertz, editor of the Triad, artist Charles Worsley and Worsley's wife Beatrice

Story Summary

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Early days

New Zealand’s first reviews of live performances and literature appeared in newspapers in the 1840s. Next came occasional reviews of local art exhibitions. By the 1880s some papers ran regular supplements containing reviews.

Often reviewers were outspoken in their criticism of local performances, but more positive about touring acts.

As magazines and books began to be published in New Zealand they too were reviewed. Films were reviewed from the 1900s.

1910 to 1960s

As recorded music became more widely available music critics were no longer restricted to reviewing live music.

In the 1910s the Triad, a well-known New Zealand literary journal, ran reviews attacking modernist poets and painters. Attacks on new developments were to become a common feature of arts and literary criticism in New Zealand.

In the 1930s modernist writers questioned the role of the critic in society and argued for higher standards of criticism.

In 1947 Landfall featured one of the first serious articles on New Zealand photography.

1960s to 2014

In the 1960s music critics began to expand their horizon to review rock ‘n’ roll and pop music in addition to classical music and jazz. Specialist music magazines such as Rip It Up emerged, focusing on the serious criticism of rock music.

Coverage of books and arts in the daily papers declined during the 2000s. Radio, however, had become a major source of reviews, including book reviews.

In the 2000s Mana magazine had regular reviews of Māori-related books and music, while the historical journal Te Pouhere Kōrero reviewed a range of publications and productions on Māori history.

In the 21st century, websites are important platforms for criticism and reviewing.

How to cite this page:

Peter Clayworth, 'Arts reviewing', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 29 March 2020)

Story by Peter Clayworth, published 22 Oct 2014