Catherine David studied art history as well as Spanish and Portuguese literature and linguistics at Université de la Sorbonne and the École du Louvre in Paris, France. From 1981 to 1990 she was a curator at the Musée National d’Art Moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris. In 1994 Catherine David was assigned artistic director of documenta X in Kassel, Germany, and from 1998 she has been director of the long-term project Contemporary Arab Representations, which began at the Fundació Antoni Tàpies in Barcelona, Spain. Between 2002 and 2004 David was director of the Witte de With Center of Contemporary Art in Rotterdam, Netherlands. In March 2011 she organized Hassan Sharif's exhibition Experiments & Objects 1979–2011 at the ADACH exhibition hall in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates and in 2014 she curated UNEDITED HISTORY, Iran 1960–2014 at the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris.
She is currently working as deputy director of Musée National d’Art Moderne, Paris.