Magnus helps Van Gogh Museum launch a WeChat app

04 August 2021 2 min. read

Magnus has partnered with Amsterdam’s Van Gogh Museum to create a mini-programme for WeChat. The platform enables users from China to take selfies and have them digitally reworked in the style of Vincent van Gogh.

Founded in 1973, the Van Gogh Museum is home to the world’s largest collection of paintings by Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh. The collection is a global attraction, with the famous post-impressionist’s works drawing nearly two million visitors each year. Tens of thousands of the museum’s visitors come from China, and in appreciation of this, the museum decided to create something unique for its Chinese audience.

While in the West, smart phone users are used to downloading separate applications for different functions, China’s social media platforms offer millions of ‘mini-apps’ for their users. As such, it was determined that the Van Gogh application should take the form of a WeChat mini-app, which has an overall user base of more than 1 billion people.

Magnus helps Van Gogh Museum launch a WeChat app

In order to develop the platform, the Van Gogh museum turned to experts from Magnus – a consultancy based in the Netherlands (a citizen of Nextcontinent). The firm had actually visited the museum recently with a new app, which could transform digital photos into portraits in the fantastical style of Van Gogh himself – allowing users to see how the artist might have painted them.

Transforming this app into a WeChat mini-programme promised to give this technology a huge additional audience, while providing Chinese visitors a unique interactive experience/

The international nature of the data being transferred through the app did of course cause some complications. To comply with Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), the museum would need to process and store user information coming out of China on servers located in the EU. Meanwhile, scaling such a product quickly enough was a concern – competing with a million other min-programmes on WeChat.

Magnus and the museum eventually chose to deploy the platform via Microsoft Azure to navigate these issues. With Azure Blob Storage, the data would be stored securely in the EU, while Azure Functions and Azure Kubernetes Service (AKS) could enable for rapid scalability.

Dennis Kraakman, a Senior Consultant at Magnus, said, “Apart from the security benefits Azure offers, deploying a virtual machine in that environment allows us to easily pair the graphics processing power we need with software like AKS in a simple, GDPR-compliant manner.”

The flexibility of Microsoft Azure also means the app can be further developed relatively simply, with the functionality of the mini-program to be expanded in the coming months. For example, there are plans on the table to sell the Van Gogh-style selfies that users can take using the mini-program as canvas prints via the app.

Martijn Pronk, Head of Digital at the Van Gogh Museum, explained, “As opposed to some of the other cloud options available to us, we recognised that Azure was the more intuitive choice. That goes for our Chinese audience, as well as the museum, since solutions from other major providers may be less accessible in their country.”