VERY LARGE exhibitions tend to be grab bags, and that is certainly the case with the current show of engravings at the International Monetary Fund Visitor Center. But grab bags can be full of surprises and delights, and that is also the case with this vast selection of small-format works by 224 artists from 38 countries.

Actually the show also embraces aquatints, woodcuts, etchings and the multitude of reproduction processes made possible by modern materials and printing techniques. "We had to pick a word, and 'engravings' was it," says center director Yves Gisse.

The idea is to promote international understanding by presenting a cross-section of contemporary works "showing the world as seen through the eyes of many artists," Gisse says. "What they are doing in Eastern Europe is very different from Western Europe, for instance." Indeed it is; the difference is almost as dramatic as shadow from sunlight.

The show is a smorgasboard with a heavy French accent that reflects its Gallic sponsorship. Many of the works come from artists who live and/or work in Paris. Those not fluent in French may want to take along a French-English dictionary, since no translations of the titles are given. Also, while the $20 show catalogue appears to include all the artists in the exhibit, few if any of the works reproduced are the ones that appear on the walls.

Although the selections were made by two dozen national or regional jurors, the quality of the works is uniformly high. Perhaps inevitably, the works are also uniformly noncontroversial, although this has always been the medium of the iconoclast and the revolutionary. The visitor will seek in vain for such fervor, either artistic or political.