The elite of Washington's art world were run ragged this weekend trying to keep up with the parties given for artist Jack Beal and his retinue of artist friends, collector friends, dealer friends and just plain friends.

They flew in from New York, Chicago, Princeton and Richmond to share what Beal called "the biggest night night of my life in 21 years" - the unveiling Friday night of his four giant murals honoring the American Worker at the Labor Department.

His wife of 21 years, artist Sandra Freckelton Beal (who helped ot paint the murals), was by his side.

Also by his side on the podium to say a few words at this most claborate and ear-shattering art opening of the year, along with the Navu band, were Joan Mondale; Secretary of Labor Ray Marshall, the acting administrator of the General Services Administration Robert T. Griffin; the deputy chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts, Michael Straight; and standing in for George Meany of the AFL-CIO, Thomas R. Donahue, who noted that "today art-lovers have come to the Halls of Labor to hail the workingmen."

Where but in the Halls of Labor would an art opening hear a rendition of "Solidarity Forever," the adopted anthem of the old leftist labor movement.

No one could remember the last time a blessing had been said over parintings at an opening, but the Rt. Rev. Monsignor George G. Higgins did the honors. And as the voices of the Sea Chanters swelled to stirring crescendo, the-lights came up and the curtain slowly opened to reveal the paintings one by one. The artist described them and identified the models, most of whom were in the audience and some of whom were the children of his dealer, Alan Frumkin, and his wife's dealer, Brooke Alexander.

"All this for four paintings?" asked one Washington dealer.

At the party following the opening at the home of Don Thalacker, head of GSA's art-in-architecture program, which commissioned the paintings, Beal, resplendent in Irish tweed, finally took off his jacket and vest and danced until 4 a.m.

Beal's drawings for the murals will go on view next week at the National Academy of Sciences.