In a major blow to Durham’s downtown cultural offerings, the proprietors of the Branch Gallery announced today that the Foster Street business will close its doors Feb. 28.

In a statement, the gallery’s co-owners Chloe Seymore and Teka Selman said they initially planned to close the gallery in the fall of 2009, but after discussions last month with the building’s landlord, Scientific Properties (which also owns the Venable Building where the Indy is located), the decision was made to close the gallery at the end of this month.

The gallery will honor its existing exhibition commitments in other venues this summer.

We reached Selman by telephone. Selman said the gallery is “not likely” to be open during this Friday night’s Third Friday events. (UPDATE 5:43 p.m.: Seymore just called to report that the gallery will be open until 8 p.m. Friday, Feb. 20.)

Selman pointed out that Third Friday earlybirds can still check in before the close of business at 6 p.m. to catch the current shows, Pedro Lasch’s LATINO/A AMERICA: The New York and North Carolina Suites and If Only to Wake My Neighbors Up: David Colagiovanni, Lydia Moyer, Michael Robinson.

We’ll have more, but for now, here’s the text of the gallery announcement.

Branch Gallery will close its doors at the end of February 2009. Though the gallery’s owners, Chloe Seymore and Teka Selman, originally planned to close in Fall 2009, they began discussions with their landlord in January which led to the decision to leave the building this spring. The decision, reached after much consideration, was made with the confidence of having realized the project that is Branch Gallery to its fullest potential during its dynamic five-year run.

The gallery’s current exhibitions, Pedro Lasch, LATINO/A AMERICA: The New York and North Carolina Suites and If Only to Wake My Neighbors Up: David Colagiovanni, Lydia Moyer, Michael Robinson, will continue through February 28, after which time the gallery will close its doors for normal business hours. Branch itself will remain open as a corporation through Summer 2009, as Seymore and Selman work in offsite locations to host previously scheduled exhibitions of the work of three of the gallery’s artists: Harrison Haynes, Katy Clove, and Amanda Barr. The gallery will provide information on these upcoming projects as soon as those details are solidified.

In an email to their many clients and friends Seymore and Selman wrote, “We cannot express enough how wonderful it has been to be a part of the framework of Durham, a place that we are proud to call home. We have been so fortunate to have tremendous support from our community of fans, visitors, and collectors, as well as having had the opportunity to work with such a remarkable group of artists. We are grateful that our landlord, Scientific Properties, has worked with us to find the best solution for all parties.”

Since its inception in 2004, Branch Gallery has served as a laboratory for the arts in the Southeast, organizing a wide range of group and solo exhibitions in collaboration with artists who are recognized locally, nationally, and internationally. The gallery has curated a number of groundbreaking exhibitions of work by a roster of stellar emerging and established artists, including Casey Cook, Bill Thelen, Amanda Barr, William Cordova, Shinique Smith, George Jenne, and Taiyo Kimura, among others. Branch has participated in art fairs both nationally and internationally, including the Aqua and NADA Art Fairs in

Miami, Florida, as well as New Contemporaries at Art Cologne in Köln, Germany and SWAB, Barcelona. The gallery has been a member of the New Art Dealers Alliance (NADA) since 2005.

Seymore, who founded the gallery with husband Harrison Haynes, and Selman, who came on as a partner in 2006, have both expressed excitement at the prospect of their future endeavors. “We are both extremely committed to the world of art and design and our future projects will certainly reflect those passions. We also remain committed to the city of Durham and it is our hope that with continued education and support, contemporary art will not only survive, but flourish here in the Triangle.”