Inside the Hirshhorn last night stood polite but serious-looking guards. Outside stood more -- with a police dog. "Well, the paintings are worth a lot," said one Hirshhorn stafter. "This is like having a Picasso show, Miro is hot stuff."

The 45 pieces by painter Joan Miro were collected from homes and galleries throughout this country.

And the preview last night of this major exhibit produced a collection of people of varying interests in the arts, from galleries and homes throughout the city. A quick sampling:

The Washington artist -- Joan Danziger has never met Joan Miro. But she agrees with Miro's statement -- on the wall in the exhibit hall -- about passion being the ruler in an artist's life. "I find the more I work, the more obsessive I become," Danziger said. That's why she went to the opening: "To get out of my studio."

The Spanish asmbassador to the U.S. Jose Llado -- "I think it's incredible. It's the most complete exhibition of Miro I've ever seen." Anywhere in the world, he confirmed. Llado has met Miro. "He's the success of permanent youth. He reminds me of Pablo Casals or Segovia, Picasso. . ."

One local museum director -- "I just got here. Is that a Miro?" (No, it was Elmer Bischoff's "Woman with Dark Blue Sky.")

A bunch of museum directors standing together -- "I need another out-of-town museum opening like I need another hole in the head, said Micheal Botwinick, the director of the Brooklyn Museum. This was a quip, said laughingly, with his arm around the shoulder of the quiet-spoken, diminutive and dapper man who is the director of the Hirshhorn -- Abram Lerner (known as Al).

Al Lerner's response -- "Now, you can quote me as saying Micheal Botwinick is the greatest museum director in the country -- no, the world. What the hell."

Botwinick -- "This man is responsible for the food here tonight, the drinks . . ."

Lerner -- "This man is responsible for Brooklyn." (He says he meant the museum.)

The young lawyer Harold Levy -- "I like the art, the free drinks, the food. It's a chance to meet women and a chance to look at interesting people. I've seen one punk rocker with red shoes. . ."

The chief curator, who arranged the show, Charles W. Millard -- "Openings are big cocktail parties, I sort of hope they look at the pictures, but I'm not expecting them to. The gallery is too crowded" (722 people at this one).

The artist, Joan Miro -- not present. Instead, at age 86, he resides and works in Palma on the island of Majorca, Spain. Miro suffered a fall last year in his studio, according to Millard, and his wife will not allow him to travel.