With Jérôme Sans, Bourriaud cofounded the Palais de Tokyo in Paris, where he served as codirector from 1999 to 2006. He was the Paris correspondent for Flash Art (1987–1995) and the founder and director of the contemporary art magazine Documents sur l'art (1992–2000). Bourriaud was the Gulbenkian curator of contemporary art from 2007 to 2010 at Tate Britain in London. In 2009 he curated the fourth Tate Triennial, titled Altermodern. He was the Director of the École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts, an art school in Paris, France, from 2011 to 2015. In 2015 Bourriaud was appointed director of the La Panacée art centre (a.k.a. MO.CO.PANACÉE) and the director of the Contemporary Art Center of Montpellier, France (aka MO.CO.).
Bourriaud is best known among English speakers for his publications Relational Aesthetics (1998/English version 2002), Postproduction (2001), and The Exform (2015/ English version 2016). Relational Aesthetics in particular has come to be seen as a defining text for a wide variety of art produced by a generation who came to prominence in Europe in the early 1990s. Bourriaud coined the term in 1995, in a text for the catalogue of the exhibition Traffic that was shown at the CAPC contemporary art museum  in Bordeaux.
In Postproduction (2001), Bourriaud relates deejaying to contemporary art. Radicant (2009) aims to define the emergence of the first global modernity, based on translation and nomadic forms, against the postmodern aesthetics based on identities. In The Exform (2016), Bourriaud examines the dynamics of ideology, specifically as it was developed in the work of Louis Althusser, to account for distinctions between the productive and unproductive, product and waste, and the included and excluded in their relation to society and art production.
- Formes de vie. L’art moderne et l’invention de soi. Paris: Editions Denoël, 1999. ISBN 2-207-25501-8
- Relational Aesthetics. Paris: Presses du réel, 2002. ISBN 2-84066-060-1
- Postproduction: Culture as Screenplay: How Art Reprograms the World. New York: Lukas & Sternberg, 2002. ISBN 0-9711193-0-9. Translated by Jeanine Herman.
- Touch: Relational Art from the 1990s to Now. San Francisco: San Francisco Art Institute, 2002.
- Playlist. Paris: Palais de Tokyo: Editions cercle d'art, 2004. ISBN 2-7022-0736-7
- The Radicant , Sternberg Press, 2009. ISBN 978-1-933128-42-9. Translated by James Gussen and Lili Porten.
- Radikant. Berlin: Merve, 2009. ISBN 978-3-88396-251-1
- Altermodern. Tate, 2009. ISBN 978-1-85437-817-0
- La Exforma. Buenos Aires: Adriana Hidalgo Editora, 2015. ISBN 9789873793165
- The Exform. Brooklyn, NY: Verso, 2016. ISBN 9781784783808
- Courts Métrages Immobiles, Venice Biennale, 1990
- Aperto '93, Venice Biennale, 1993
- Commerce, Espace St Nicolas, Paris, 1994
- Traffic, Capc Bordeaux, 1996
- Joint Ventures, Basilico Gallery, New York, 1996
- Le Capital, CRAC Sète, 1999
- Contacts, Kunsthalle Fri-Art, Fribourg, Switzerland, 2000
- Négociations, CRAC, Sète, 2000
- Touch, San Francisco Art Institute, 2002
- GNS (Global Navigation System), Palais de Tokyo, Paris, 2003
- Playlist, Palais de Tokyo, Paris, 2004
- Notre Histoire, Palais de Tokyo, Paris, 2006
- Moscow Biennale, 2005 and 2007 (with Backstein, Boubnova, Birnbaum, Obrist, Martinez)
- Estratos, Murcia, 2008.
- The Tate Triennial 2009: Altermodern, Tate Britain, London, 2009
- Athens Biennial 2011 : Monodrome.
- The Angel of history, Palais des Beaux-arts, Paris, 2013.
- Cookbook, Palais des Beaux-arts, Paris, 2013.
- Taipei Biennial 2014, The Great acceleration.
- Kaunas Biennial 2015, Threads : a fantasmagoria about distance.
- Frieze Magazine | Archive | Nicolas Bourriaud Archived 2009-02-05 at the Wayback Machine
- ANA Nicolas Bourriaud – new director of École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts 3 November 2011. Also ArtNet.
- MO.CO. website
- "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2006-08-27. Retrieved 2006-08-26.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
- Bourriaud, Nicolas (2016). The Exform. Verso. pp. xii.
If invoking Benjamin and Bataille represents something familiar to readers, the prominent place granted to Louis Althusser...may come as a surprise.