THIS CITY of statues is running out of space for memorials much faster than those with the commemorative urge are running out of people, causes and organizations that they wish to have prominently memorialized. Sen. Malcolm Wallop (R-Wyo.) said at a subcommittee hearing this week that there has recently been a "barrage" of requests for new memorials in Washington, all of which "had some relative merit."

He tactfully didn't say relative to what, nor has Congress always asked that question when dealing with these requests. "We are increasingly alarmed by the proliferation of monuments," said J. Carter Brown, chairman of the Commission on Fine Arts. "Too many memorials, no matter how well designed, will detract from the dignity and appearance of the city." He and others are urging that a memorial master plan be be drawn up.

There are only 50 or so suitable spaces left in Washington for such purposes, and while some of the things and people nominated for memorializing on them are worthy, many are questionable. "There are some very strange ones around that I would not want my named attached to," said Sen. Wallop.

Given Congress' reluctance to offend constituent groups, we wouldn't want to bet that some of the strangest won't end up some day on pedestals and plaques. It occurs to us that now might be the time, before things are completely out of hand, to consider a sort of multiple memorial for some of those lesser figures in the nation's history -- something that would honor them in much the same they're honored in real life. We are talking about a testimonial dinner.

As sculpture, The Head Table, as we'd call it, would be able to accommodate dozens of figures in a space no wider than the Hilton ballroom. New ones could be added over the years, and a plaque would identify the accomplishments of each of those seated at the high table: "Inventor of the Running Shoe," "Father of the Orange Drink," "Hero of the Route 23 Pileup." All would be looking attentively toward the master of ceremonies while their veal cordon bleu sat stone cold and untouched through the ages. Come to think of it, it would probably be a lot more interesting to the average visitor than some of the statuary that adorns the place now.